Rome was not built in a day, as the saying goes. The same could be said of Mira, who today trains hundreds of guide dogs, on reading her story dissected in a new book, narrated through her co-founder Éric St-Pierre.
We read with curiosity Mira: My most beautiful love story, with its 270 tightly packed pages, while thinking: what a long way we have come! Above all, we discover that the beginnings of the destiny of this organization, highly respected by Quebecers, are inextricable from those of the life of its co-founder. Written in collaboration with Agnès Marliot, these memoirs certainly retrace the development of the project, which grew more and more complex over time, but also the very first steps of Éric St-Pierre in his relationships with dogs, which were sometimes surprising.
Raised the hard way on the family farm, he had the happy company of Mike or Ti-Loup, faithful canines who accompanied his childhood adventures, and so many others, like Coco or the aptly named Karma. , a German Shepherd. His career as a musician on the sidelines, Mr. St-Pierre decides to compose with his dogs, learning about training. He therefore trains particularly obedient animals, but whose vocation is still far from that of Mira’s future offspring, being trained for guarding, security or the search for narcotics. At the same time, the need to feed his family pushes him to accept a “dirty job”: dog catcher in the service of municipal pounds, which will earn him the contempt of good people, various bites and a persistent pestilential smell.
However, he manages to pull the reins towards the project of his life.
Mira was born in 1981, founded by Éric St-Pierre and Johanne Hallé.
“I was afraid it would never happen. The great battle of French in North America is not yet over today,” he said in an interview with La Presse. However, he threw himself headlong into the fight. “With empty pockets, but with a full heart, I embarked without guardrails on a path as tortuous as it was soft,” he says in his biography.
Then begins a struggle to finance and grow Mira, the author of this initiative suffering many setbacks, having doors slammed in his face, but also unearthing support, logistical and financial. Reading this tumultuous journey, with bends of hope and disillusionment, one wonders what allowed man to keep the sacred fire alive. “It’s been the pleasure of working with dogs, my love for them, since the age of 6, when I worked with my father,” says Mr. St-Pierre. “Although sometimes I was on the verge of giving up in the face of difficulties,” he concedes.
The organization grew, winning the hearts of the public, chaining campaigns and fundraising activities on an ever larger scale, such as dog sledding expeditions. We also discover how assistance to targeted audiences has flourished and diversified, focusing on people with reduced mobility or motor skills, or even children with autism. A branch that continues to grow, even today, as shown by the pilot project for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, launched in 2019 and in development after the pandemic break. “It was a very promising project, especially with people at the beginning of the disease,” says Agnès Marliot, collaborator on the biography. Mira, which has 90 employees and several hundred volunteers to date, trains between 150 and 200 dogs per year.
“I see a bright future for Mira in terms of development, to always give more, to develop the component for people with Alzheimer’s. We still have to work, organize and fine-tune to make it work better,” says St-Pierre.