At seven years old, brothers Caber and Tartan leave a lasting impression – and it’s not just because of their striking good looks.
The yellow Labrador retrievers – both highly trained assistance dogs – change lives.
As Canada’s first Trauma K9, Caber helps victims of crime, including, as of this past May, by providing support to young sexual-assault victims in the courtroom.
With just two trials at Surrey Provincial Court under his collar so far, it’s obvious to handler Kim Gramlich – co-ordinator of Victim Services for Delta Police – that Caber’s skills are invaluable.
“In both cases, the witnesses outside of the courtroom on breaks were struggling,” Gramlich said, noting both were ready to walk away from the emotional and traumatic experience without finishing their testimony.
With Caber at each girl’s side, however, they got through.
“On both cases, we really felt Caber was instrumental. He really helped them find that fortitude to go on.”
Caber and Tartan – both raised and trained through Burnaby-based Pacific Assistance Dogs Society – were in South Surrey Wednesday with Gramlich and Coquitlam resident Karen Bryon to share their skills with Rotary Club of South Surrey members.
Tartan, raised from puppyhood by PADS volunteer Bryon, is an official demonstration dog for the society, helping spread awareness of the PADS program by showing firsthand just how much assistance four-legged friends can provide to mobility, hearing or otherwise impaired clients.
Wednesday, he alerted Bryon to a telephone ringing and a smoke alarm; turned lights on and off; opened and closed a small fridge; retrieved and gently delivered an item from the floor; and helped her take off a sock.
While Tartan performed the tasks with ease, Gramlich pointed out that he had to know “quite a sequence” of commands to pull some of them off, including “look”, “get”, “hold”, “bring” and “give” – skills PADS’ dogs learn through extensive training.
Questions from Rotary members included one about etiquette – how the general public should treat a PADS dog, when one of the blue-vested companions is spotted with his or her client companion.
Noting the dogs are typically concentrating on the important task of keeping their companions safe, Gramlich said it’s best to simply leave them be.
Don’t pet them, she said, “because distracting the dog from what it’s doing could be very problematic.”
PADS’ latest canine graduates were celebrated in a ceremony Sept. 27. It’s an event that always brings attendees to tears, said Gramlich and Bryon, as puppy raisers say goodbye to their charges, and the success of a client match is marked.
But while it is “heartbreaking” to say goodbye to a PADS puppy, it’s also rewarding, Bryon said.
“When you see these dogs with a client and how they’ve changed their lives, it’s worth every bit of it,” Bryon said.
For more information about PADS, or to donate – PADS relies heavily on donations to cover the costs of raising and training its dogs – visit www.pads.ca
The Burnaby facility will also host an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 5, at 9048 Stormont Ave.