June 24th, 2024

New support dog joins ranks of the LPS

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on June 5, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Cruiser, the newest member of the Victim/Witness Services Unit, demonstrates some of his comforting skills with crisis support court worker Kaitlin Norman during a press conference Tuesday at the Lethbridge police station.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The Lethbridge Police Services Victim/Witness Services Unit welcomed a second facility dog to their team, a four-year-old black Lab named Cruiser.

Catherine Pooley, V/WSU program manager, spoke Wednesday about their newest member and said Cruiser is amazing and ready to do the work that he is trained to do.

“Cruiser will come in and his primary focus will be on the victims themselves, so he will spend his time in interviews, at the courthouse, he will spend his time interacting with people out in the community more so than the people here in this building,” said Pooley.

Cruiser joins Kourt, the first facility dog that was placed within the unit in 2022 with the goal of taking care of internal wellness.

“We were of the opinion that we could take best care of our community by taking really good care of our staff here at LPS. Kourt has delivered in spades and has been able to work with a number of different staff, both sworn in and civilian,” said Pooley.

When it comes to the training received by the dogs, Pooley said they receive an incredible amount. Dogs go through between 24 and 36 months of training at Dogs with Wings in Edmonton, which is all done by volunteer puppy raisers and volunteer adult raisers, and then they spend quite a bit of time working one-on-one with a trainer who is up there as well.

“It’s an approximation of $44,000 worth of training that goes into the dogs to have them ready to be able and come and support our community when they arrive,” said Pooley.

Even though Cruiser is trained and ready to go, Pooley said he will go through an adjustment period before hitting the field, just like any person at a new job as they would have a little bit of training and adjustment time to learn their role.

“We are giving Cruiser the same time to get to know his people, to get to know the service, and to start practicing some of the direct service,” said Pooley.

This involves going to the courthouse to do some training there, train at LPS and potentially at the child advocacy centre.

“We want to make this a very collaborative approach so that the needs of our community are being met,” said Pooley.

She said some of those needs include being able to support them in court and during interviews.

She added that there is a number of different ways the dogs are able to help those who need support.

“That might look like a head on your lap, the ability to pet a dog, just have them right there beside you, that non-judgmental support that they can offer, or it might just look like being right at your feet as you testify and you know you are not up there on that stand alone, because sometimes those are scary moments for people,” said Pooley.

She said they wanted to make sure they acquired a dog that was well suited for that, so they put their trust on Dogs With Wings and they have delivered in spades.

“General grounding is a really important piece for the dogs. We want to make sure that they can help people that have experienced crime, trauma or tragedy feel as calm and as safe as possible. It’s much easier to get through some of those tough moments when there is someone or something like a dog that can help you get through that,” said Pooley.

When asked if LPS will be acquiring any more dogs in the future, Pooley said it is hard to tell at this point.

“I couldn’t speak about the future at this point. We’re just really excited to get him (Cruiser) rolled out. We know there is a big void that we want to make sure he’s filling,” said Pooley.

She said Kourt’s work is right on point and she is doing exactly what she should do and Cruiser will jump in and be able to support the community, but if they find a need down the road which would require another dog, that is something they would look at as a service.

“For now | think he is just filling the biggest gap we have and we are thrilled to have him here,” said Pooley.

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