by Andru McCracken
Jennifer Quam has been working with a Burnaby non-profit for a year and half to prepare the way for a new recruit to the Robson Valley Police Based Victim Services Program. The recruit’s name is Skipper. He is a dog.
This isn’t Skipper’s first gig. He worked for two years at a youth justice program in Alberta.
Quam said Skipper will provide comfort and support to all victims of crime and tragedy when appropriate. He can also attend court to support clients who are testifying.
Skipper will keep a high profile in the Robson Valley as an ambassador of the Victim Services Program as well as the McBride and Valemount RCMP Detachments.
“We have visited long term care at the McBride Hospital, McBride Library, and both local high schools,” said Quam.
Skipper will also work at the Robson Valley Support Society’s Strong Start Program and the McBride Library’s Ready, Set, Learn Program.
Combined with a weekly reading program at the Valemount Preschool, Skipper’s going to be a busy boy.
“The response has been amazing,” said Quam. “As usual, the Robson Valley is being very supportive of a new initiative. I am really excited about this addition to the Victim Services and believe that Skipper will be a huge addition to the program and community.”
Corporal Jason Nash of the Valemount RCMP said Skipper will compliment the victim services already provided.
“This will have a positive impact on those coming into contact with Skipper whether from motor vehicle collision victims, family violence victims, or children to mention a few.”
Lina Thompson, Operations Director for the Robson Valley Support Society said she’s happy to welcome Skipper to the valley.
“Skipper will be working alongside Jennifer to assist in providing hope, healing and support to people who are victims and/or witnesses of a crime or accident.”
Quam said it is a lengthy process matching the dog to the handler and the lifestyle and preparing both parties. The dog was trained by Pacific Assistance Dog Society.
PADS is a non-profit society and they breed and train dogs solely on donations. Quam said that to raise and train a dog like Skipper costs approximately $35,000
Funding to bring Skipper to town came from the Robson Valley Police Based Victim Service Program and in-kind funding was provided by Robson Valley Support Society, The Regional District of Fraser Fort George and the Valemount Vet Clinic.
Skipper will live with Quam full time and she is responsible for all of his ongoing costs.
“As long as he remains in good health, it is expected his working career will last another five to seven years,” she said.
Quam said that when Skipper retires, she’ll have the option to adopt him.
About PADS Accredited Facility Dogs
PADS Accredited Facility Dogs are bred, raised and trained to be a calm, well-mannered presence with those who are experiencing trauma, pain, grief, illness or injury. Their presence brings a sense of calm to those around them – while these dogs are highly trained, they are selected for their ability to take whatever emotions are around them and then let those things go.
Key Facts about Training
Training began the day the dog was born with specific handling exercises and stimulus that teach the pup that the world is an ever changing, but safe place.
Dogs are raised and socialized by volunteer families in public from 8 weeks – roughly 16 months. During this time they learn approximately 30 commands that include basic obedience (sit, down, stand etc), positioning (heel, side, front, etc) and the building blocks of skill development (touch, target, tug, etc).
As young adults they go through a rigorous assessment to ensure that they have the caliber of temperament and health required for placement.