by Stephen Dafoe
videography by Soaring Pig Studios
Many people make up the Sturgeon Victim Services (SVS) team. Staff, board members, advocates, and the RCMP Liaison all play essential roles within the SVS Unit. But one member works like a dog. She’s Hope, Sturgeon Victim Services’ court support canine.
Hope received training as a court support canine from Dogs with Wings and works with SVS to support children and adults who need to testify in court.
“Hope’s job primarily is to support children and adult witnesses that are required to testify in court,” said Elyse Prince, SVS Program Manager. “She can also be made available if an interview needs to happen at the RCMP detachment to provide that silent emotional support during that stressful time.”
SVS Executive Director Elisabeth Melvin said one of the places Hope does her job is at the Zebra Centre in Edmonton. “Her grandfather is actually their dog on location to support victims,” Melvin said. “It is a sexual assault center for children, so you can imagine the comfort that she brings when she goes there.”
Given the nature of Hope’s work, as a court support canine, it is essential that the canine advocate be as gentle as possible.
“Hope at work is very calm, very mellow, and she can also be very cuddly,” Prince explained. “Her job is to provide that emotional support but also not to interrupt court proceedings as they’re happening.”
RCMP Corporal Jeff Sutherland, the RCMP SVS Liasion, sees Hope a lot at the detachment.
“Hope at work is the most calm, relaxed dog you would ever meet. She has a run of the office,” Sutherland said. “She strolls around, meets every member every morning – calm peaceful, lays down. The most relaxed dog you can find.”
Although calm and collected at work, Hope is more of a regular Labrador at home with Prince when the work vest comes off.
“She loves to run around and roll in the grass and chase other dogs. Her favourite game is tug, and she loves her treats. So completely different personality out of the courthouse,” Prince said, adding her favourite food is bananas, and she is a big fan of belly rubs.
For more information on Sturgeon Victim Services, visit them online at https://www.sturgeonvictimservices.com/