Two paws forward: Victoria Police recruit stress relief pup

Two paws forward: Victoria Police recruit stress relief pup
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Freewheeling through the Victoria Police Department is a new everyday hero.

“Just to try to bring some levity and some warmth to what’s a difficult job to do,” said VicPD Const. Matt King.

For the 50,000 calls they answer each year, Victoria police are exposed to high-stress events at work 24/7. But taking that trauma home is no longer considered a part of the job.

“I think for far too long we have not paid attention to the health and wellness of our people,” said Victoria Police Chief Del Manak.

Whether it’s a single, significant event like the 2022 BMO shooting where two young men staged a bank robbery to entice police into a shootout, or an accumulation of trauma over a career, Daisy, the three-year-old golden lab retriever, is another — albeit furry — resource to offer officers physical, social and emotional support.

“Daisy joins us because everyday acts of everyday heroism add up,” said Manak.

Her office title is Operational Stress Intervention Dog, and she’s not only trained to sense anxiety in staff but, wagging tail and all, comfort victims of crime during in-person interviews.

Daisy is a donation from Wounded Warriors Canada and VICD Service Dogs of Alberta & BC, which partnered to bring four to five emotional support dogs to police departments across Canada this year.

In January, Vancouver Island became home to its first operational stress intervention dog when Saanich Police recruited a two-year-old black Lab named Beacon.

And for the month Daisy’s been with Victoria Police, she’s already made an impact.

“She’ll pick up on anxious individuals for sure,” said King.

“I can tell ya she puts the police chief in a better mood,” added Manak.

Daisy is one of many investments Victoria police are making to prioritize employees’ mental health, including hiring an in-house psychologist, initiating annual wellness checks, and organizing a peer support team.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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