Meet Cambria, the Surrey RCMP’s newest member.
The Labrador-golden retriever mix started with the Surrey RCMP in its Victim Services Unit four months ago. She is an accredited facility dog, meant “to be soothing for victims and witnesses of crime and trauma,” according to the Surrey RCMP.
Cambria’s primary role, RCMP said, is “to support clients when they are providing statements, attend critical incident debriefs, perform check-ins with clients, serve as a testimonial aid in court, and support people while they are completing victim impact statements.”
Cambria, who is the Surrey RCMP’s first facility dog, works with her handler Marnie Neal.
“She seems to sense who the person is who’s having the most difficulty, and she’ll go over to them and she’ll engage with the person and then after a minute or two, then she calms down and she sits pressing on their feet and that helps relax people,” Neal said.
Brian Aasebo, Surrey RCMP Intervention Programs manager, said when he began overseeing the Victim Services Unit, it was brought to his attention “the value” of introducing a facility dog.
“Not surprisingly, it was a unanimous buy-in from both city and RCMP senior management,” he said. From there, the RCMP sent in an application to Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) to get a dog.
“It wasn’t actually until meeting Cambria, and hearing about some of the interactions she’s had with the clients in a short time period that I really comprehended the true value,” Aasebo said.
In her four months at the detachment, Aasebo said Cambria has “supported over 200 internal (and) external clients” in situations such as family meetings following a fatal collision, a large community debrief in response to a fatal hit-and-run for a pedestrian who lived in a care home, a home visit to a Surrey teenager who was the victim of a stranger assault and a “a child victim of sexual assault who wasn’t really engaged in the process until Cambria came by her side.”
PADS executive director Laura Watamanuk said the society “often” comes across dogs like Cambria who “have a very empathetic nature,” who are “drawn to emotions, drawn to people that are very upset and what she wants to do is just go and be close to them and help soothe their soul.”
“The dog picks the job,” she said.
Watamanuk said dogs like Cambria are difficult to come by because the handlers are asking the dogs to go out into the community, “into a crisis-type situation,” and be drawn to the emotion and want to help somebody. But when the dog’s work is done for the day, Watamanuk said, the most important aspect is that the dogs are able to recover from all the emotions.
“Most dogs will take on the emotions and the feelings of their owners. If you’re happy and excited, your dog is going to be happy and excited. If you’re sad, your dog is going to see that and take on your emotions. Dogs that we place within police victim services, or a child-crisis intervention, those are dogs that are going into high-tension environments.”
Neal said when Cambria is at home, she’s like “a regular dog.”
“I think of her like a trauma sponge. She goes to the people and they can just release all that energy into her and then when she goes home, she goes out to the backyard and she scampers around and plays and just releases that energy.”