If you ever happen to feel upset or disturbed, a pupper named Roo will detect it and walk on over to offer comfort.
The six year old Golden Retriever/Labrador has been working at the Harmony Arch and Surrey Memorial emergency hospitals since late 2021, helping victims of trauma.
“She knows when something’s up, you almost have to see it to believe it,” said Christine Simmons, an emergency department social worker with Fraser Health. “We’ve had experiences where she’s just lying there and somebody starts crying or someone is in some sort of turmoil, Roo will stand up, walk over and put her chin on the person’s lap.”
Roo is a graduate of the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society also known as PADS, which is celebrating its 35 year of breeding, raising and preparing fully certified assistance dogs. The pups become service dogs (assisting with mobility and PTSD), hearing canines (alerting individuals of sounds), and accredited facility dogs (AFD), such as Roo.
The AFD dogs work with specialist in health and wellbeing, justice and education, including Roo at Fraser Health, Gaia at Canuck Place, the retired Caber in Delta (the first victim services facility dog in Canada) and replacement to Puma, and the VPD’s Lucca (victim services) and Zen (traumatized officers), and Cambria (victim services) in Surrey.
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A canine named Koltan, the first to work all day in B.C. intense care facility (Surrey Memorial Hospital) assisted Emergency Health Services dispatchers before he passed on prematurely.
PADS depends on volunteers for around 90% of its work, including dog-raisers like Meredith Areskoug. There are week by week classes with mentors, field outings and team meetings to go over their pups skills. It costs the non-profit group no less than $35,000 to prepare a canine, according to the society.
“We just kept soldiering on, it was an amazing thing,” Areskoug said.
The society has campuses in Burnaby, Calgary and close to Lake Country, as well as advanced mentor trainers on Vancouver Island, with a total of 137 dogs in the program right now, 32 of them are in cutting edge training, such as the training Roo took.
Pups who graduate must have the right temperament for the specific assistance they’ve been prepared for. Roo, for example, comes from PADS’ Australian litter and a long line of supportive, calm dogs.
“PADS is amazing and I could go on-and-on about their awesomeness and how supportive they’ve been,” said Simmons.
She’s had Roo beginning around 2018 and for the first two years before her medical care work the Lab/Golden Retriever was with a children’s advocacy bunch that helped youthful survivors of sexual and physical abuse during forensic interviews and at court. Since she was permitted in hospitals in late 2021, once in a while a specialist or attendant will come up to Simmons to tell her about a patient who was just diagnosed with cancer, and ask if Roo could visit them. Simmons will do an evaluation, get the patient’s or family’s consent and allow Roo to do her thing.
“I’ve always had a yes, never a no,” Simmons said.
Once in a while Roo will simply remain by the bed, sometimes she jumps onto the bed if consent is given.
“Roo will just lie there and you know when you’re petting a dog, your blood pressure goes down, your breathing slows down, you’re calm because you’re doing this petting and talking and, well, Roo’s demeanour is just amazing as well.”
Roo isn’t a service dog. She doesn’t press buttons on the elevator, she doesn’t retrieve dropped keys.
“We joke that Roo’s too lazy to do that, she’s like, ‘I just want to be cute and helpful,” Simmons said.
Simmons sometimes jokes about Roo’s work ethic, yet it’s genuinely emotionally taxing on the pup, and she’s tired by the end of the day.
“It’s hard work,” Simmons said.