WATCH: RCMP Victim Services unit welcomes trauma dog West

Paul Rodgers

Watch: Handler Jessica Robertson and West

The Cranbrook and Kimberley RCMP Victim Services unit have welcomed aboard a special new member to the team. Three-year-old West was born in Burnaby BC and will provide important assistance to the clients of Victim Services.

West is a trauma dog, who came to the East Kootenays from the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS). Working with handler Jessica Robertson of the Victims Services unit, West will provide emotional support to those who have experienced trauma.

The duo frequently work in court rooms and much of his time will be spent in the Cranbrook courthouse, but Robertson is on call 24/7 for the RCMP, so there are many ways his services will be employed.

“Any sort of assistance that they would need when someone is experiencing trauma West and I are called to go in,” said Robertson at a press conference at Rotary Park on August 3. “So it varies, it can be an accident, a motor vehicle incident, it can be a sudden death, it can be anything like that.”

“Well we deal with a lot of people that are victims of crime and traumatic incidences, serious car crashes and serious assaults,” added Sgt. Chris Newel of the Kimberley RCMP. “So I think West will be a great addition in comforting those people, and whether you’re young or old — I mean everybody loves animals, everybody loves dogs.”

Newel said that he had done some research into trauma dog programs, discovering that there’s only a few of them in western Canada.

“When [Robertson] approached me over two years ago I thought it was a wonderful idea, I was really ecstatic,” said Newel. “I fully supported Jessica throughout the process and was excited when she brought him home and she brought him to the detachment and he just fit right in.”

West has already done some “amazing things” since being brought on back in March of this year. Robertson said that she first decided to work with trauma dogs and PADS after seeing a class Kim Gramlich of the Delta police force gave at a seminar she attended a few years ago.

“Once you apply to the program [at PADS] you wait until you get accepted and do an interview and it’s quite a process,” explained Robertson “We waited some time for West, it was worth every minute of it, but you basically get a dog that’s fit specifically for you.”

West was born into the program that raises the animals to provide assistance to people with disabilities. Occasionally they come across a dog that is more attentive to people’s needs than the others and better suited for the type of work that Victims Services does.

“You go the program and give them your bio and then when the dogs are born to the program they come with their bio and when they’re ready to be placed they make a match and then they phone you,” said Robertson. “So they phoned me in February and I went to Burnaby and spent a week in training.”

She worked closely with PADS, who still provide support and are essentially are the owners of West for the rest of his working life, to learn all the public etiquette and commands that are necessary for the job.

As the press interview and photo ops carried on, West was perfectly well behaved, calm and quiet; it’s easy to see why he was handpicked for this specific line of duty.

“He’s a very comforting presence in such a traumatic time,” said Robertson. “We like to say that dogs don’t judge people, so they don’t see age, race, colour, they’re just there for all the right reasons.”