Fundraising efforts from the graduating class of 2017 at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School in Red Deer has resulted in RCMP Victim Services welcoming its newest member to the team.
Harley the therapy dog is a two-year-old black lab who began his duties on Monday, spending a day in court providing comfort to local victims of crime and taking part in mock interviews at the Central Alberta Children's Advocay Centre.
Cst. Holly Erb, Victim Services Program Coordinator with Red Deer RCMP says Harley will essentially work with victims, witnesses and family members of anyone experiencing trauma or tragedy.
“It could come in the way of crime or it could also come in the way of a death of a loved one,” explains Erb. “So he will assist with all of our clients in that capacity and provide emotional support to them through the system in whatever that looks like for them.”
Erb describes Harley as very empathetic towards people, especially to those who appear to need support.
“I would say that dogs have a sixth sense and they know when people need assistance,” Erb says. “We do find that with all the service dogs in Victim Services as well as other areas, they tend to go to a person who is experiencing some symptoms of anxiety or stress. That might be a first responder in our office or it could be our clients, he will just innately move towards them to provide that assistance.”
Erb adds Harley will ultimately improve the quality of service they currently provide to local victims of crime or tragedy.
“A lot of our clients, although I believe it’s underreported are young children or were victims as children,” states Erb. “As such, they’re expected to travel through the criminal justice system just as an adult would and Harley is there to provide them the support through that. So they can lean on Harley and they can have him present during the statement and testifying in court.”
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says the acquisition of Harley was made possible by the vision of front-line workers and volunteers at Victim Services, in addition to the fundraising efforts of corporate sponsors and the 2017 graduating class at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School.
“Notre Dame raised $38,000 and so that covers the acquisition and the operating costs to keep this recruit on duty,” states Veer. “So today we presented Harley with his official dog tag. He is the first of our therapy dogs and he’ll serve victims, the RCMP and our community. The number 911 is also on his dog tag so that the community knows who to call.”
Cst. Erb says Harley has a busy schedule ahead of him, adding that he's already booked for public education presentations about Red Deer RCMP Victim Services and other events right through to October.
Mounties thank the 2017 graduating class at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School for their fundraising efforts in making this happen, as well as Bone & Biscuit, Speedpro Signs, Dr. Lisa Lomsnes with Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital, Fetch Haus, Red Deer Harley Owners Group, staff of Winners, and Ron and Wendy Schmidt for their sponsorship and support of this initiative.
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