You'll probably have seen his image emblazoned on ads for TfL's cycle hire scheme across the capital, but Monte the poster-dog is not just a pretty face. When he's away from the lens, the white Havanese from West London, works as a tireless volunteer dog in the social care sector.
Monte's favourite philanthropic endeavour is TheraPaws, an initiative set-up through Kensal Green's animal welfare charity the Mayhew Animal Home. The project arranges super-teams of human and canine volunteers to visit London care facilities so residents can experience the health and social benefits from animal contact and interaction.
Monte and his colleagues are frequent visitors to Wembley's Kenbrook nursing home, which specialises in dementia care. TheraPaws project manager Luke Berman tells Londonist: "The residents adore Monte and their faces light up when he arrives for his TheraPaws visit. There is one resident in particular who doesn't speak much except when Monte is around."
Monte was born in Grimsby in March 2014 then made the 200 mile journey down to the capital to start his education at North London's Tip Top Dog School. Though he was known for his excellent conduct at school, occasional bouts of inattention sometimes blotted his kindergarten copybook. No doubt the memory of these lapses will lead some to speculate that Monte might be easily distracted by his new found fame. After all, the photo-shoot he undertook with celebrity snapper Nicholas Dawkes is sure to attract admirers.
But while lesser mutts may have retired on their good looks, Monte has never been one to take the easy option. At the age of just six months, for example, he passed the vigorous TheraPaws volunteer test. The test is no stroll in the park as Berman explains: "It is important the dog is calm... and has to be interested in interacting with new people and happy for strangers to pet them all over. The test looks for reactions to loud noises, sudden movements — like medical staff rushing through — as well as their general good health and well-being."
Despite some tempting job offers in the pipeline, this is very much a dog with his paws on the ground. As an official spokesperson tells Londonist from Monte's Notting Hill HQ: "He isn't a performer — first and foremost he's a dog."
You can follow Monte on Instagram.