In Chile, dogs help kids with autism on their dentist visits

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In this April 28, 2017 photo, 9-year-old Diego Rosales, who has autism, interacts with therapy dog Perry before his dental appointment at the Los Andes University Medical Center on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
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In this April 28, 2017 photo, 9-year-old Rayen Antinao gets a dental check-up as therapy dog Zucca helps keep her calm at the Los Andes University Medical Center, on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile.(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Updated 08 May 2017

In Chile, dogs help kids with autism on their dentist visits

SANTIAGO, Chile: Diego Rosales was so terrified during his dental appointments when he was 4 that he kept biting his dentist.
Today, the 9-year-old is far calmer, soothed by the presence of “Zucca,” a black Labrador that helps children like him with autism face one of their worst fears.
A visit to the dentist can be daunting for any child, but it’s especially so for many with autism. They can be upset by the lights in their faces or frightened by the noises of the instruments. Some have to be sedated.
Therapy dogs have been used in many countries to calm autistic children and aid people with numerous other conditions. Raul Varela began the practice in Chile after noticing that his autistic child’s social interactions improved after spending time with the family’s black Labrador.
Varela quit his job and got certified by Spain-based Bocalan as a therapy dog trainer for children with autism.
He started a non-profit organization called Junto a Ti (“Next to You“) that specializes in visits to the dentist for autistic children. It uses six dogs, all female, because the organizers say they are more docile. And the dogs get specialized training.
“Zucca had already been trained to be around children with autism, but taking her to the dentist was different,” Varela said. “She needed to be able to resist the screaming, the noise from the drill and to stay still in the lap of the children, even when they pull their hair or their ears.”
So far, the dogs have aided about 50 children visiting a single university-run dental clinic on the southern edge of Chile’s capital. The clinic pays the equivalent of $67 for a session with a dog, though its charge for a child’s visit varies, depending on the family’s economic level.
On a recent day, Diego sat in the dentist’s chair with Zucca on his lap. There was no biting and no screaming this time. Instead, Diego continued to pet Zucca long after the dentist had plucked out one of his teeth, and he smiled when he got to take the tooth home inside a tiny box for the tooth fairy.


Inside Fishbone, the latest restaurant from Chef Susy Massetti

Fishbone is by Chef Susy Massetti. (Supplied)
Updated 21 February 2020

Inside Fishbone, the latest restaurant from Chef Susy Massetti

MANAMA: Chef Susy Massetti is a long-established star of the region’s culinary scene — from five-star hotel kitchens in the UAE and Bahrain to her unique concept at Bahrain’s multi-award-winning Masso by Chef Susy Massetti.

Having left Masso just over two years ago, many Gulf foodies were left wondering where she had gone. The answer is Fishbone, a gorgeous spot tucked away in the Novotel Al-Dana Resort, close to town but with a seaside feel, where she has had a hand in everything from the interior setup — even down to the fabric design — to, of course, the kitchen and menu (which, by the way, is not all seafood).

The restaurant has a gorgeous, and uber-romantic, outdoor terrace with liberal sprinkling of fairy lights. (Supplied)

I was lucky enough to try out a selection of chef’s recommendations on a cool evening recently — and no, this is not the customary British obsession with the weather, but an excuse to mention the gorgeous, and uber-romantic, outdoor terrace with its liberal sprinkling of fairy lights. I chose to sit inside because of the chill, but it will surely be warmer soon.

I was by the ceviche, knowing it to be one of Chef Susy’s signature dishes. But, instead, I went with the recommendation of Fishbone’s Poke Bowl — sushi-grade tuna with avocado, red onions, sesame seeds, coriander and black rice, with Asian dressing.

Chef Susy Massetti is a long-established star of the region’s culinary scene. (Supplied)

Firstly, it looks beautiful, with the black rice adding a visual twist. And that same black rice also contributes to the texture mix, slightly rougher and nuttier than its white counterpart. The abundant raw tuna is a fish lover’s dream, fresh and succulent. The flavor additions are a perfect mix, giving just the right piquancy without overpowering the tuna. If you’re not a fan of coriander, don’t feel shy about asking for it to be omitted, the kitchen is very happy to oblige — though you’ll be missing out slightly.

For my main course, I was delighted to discover a whole section of the menu devoted to truffles. In an ‘Every day’s a school day’ moment, Chef Susy informed me that, as well as working with top-quality imports, she’s also a big fan of local truffles. I never even knew such a thing existed. Apparently, in season, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are abundant with both white and black truffles and they’re particularly plentiful after rainfall.

Fishbone is a gorgeous spot tucked away in the Novotel Al-Dana Resort in Bahrain. (Supplied) 

I chose white truffle risotto. In my view, it’s the ultimate comfort food, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Arborio rice was perfectly cooked — tender and creamy without a hint of stickiness. The generous portion of wafer-thin truffle slices, pungent, and with that unmistakable delicate taste, was the cherry on the cake, so to speak.

Purely in the interests of research, you understand, I went for a second main of Branzino Al Limone — seabass fillet with a classic lemon-and-caper sauce. Delicious! The flesh was that perfect consistency of fall-off-the-fork tender but still firm enough to retain its robust meaty texture and the accompanying sauce demonstrates the skill of the kitchen — the simplest dishes are often the hardest to get right.

In season, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are abundant with both white and black truffles and they’re particularly plentiful after rainfall. (Supplied)

At this point, I have to confess that I should have taken the advice on the menu: “Life is short, leave space for the cake.” With choices including chocolate toffee pudding with mascarpone cream, strawberries with jaggery and balsamic syrup, and baked yoghurt with fresh berries, I would have been very much in my element. Sadly, I simply could not fit any more in — the price for having two main courses. However, I shall treat my omission as an excuse to return, not that one is needed.

And if you’re in Saudi Arabia, you don’t need to wait for your next trip across the causeway to sample Chef Susy’s culinary creations, as you’ll also find her at the recently launched Eat’sy on the corniche in Alkhobar. I feel a road trip coming on.