When members of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) are having a tough day, there’s a four-legged furball they can turn to for guaranteed smiles.
The department has a new comfort dog in training: Jake, a playful and energetic 12-week-old golden retriever who loves socializing and cuddles.
Jake hopes to take over from the APD’s current comfort dog, Jasper, a seven-year-old border collie-lab cross who is leaving when his owner, Monique Olinoski, retires at the end of April after 23 years.
APD Sgt. Judy Bird said having a comfort dog around the office provides some levity to what can otherwise be a heavy job.
“It changes the atmosphere. It’s a serious business we’re in,” she said.
Other Lower Mainland police detachments have comfort dogs, and the APD looked at getting one through the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) after the fatal shooting of Const. John Davidson in November 2017, but the wait list is two to three years.
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Meanwhile, Olinoski – the co-ordinator of the APD’s victim services – was told she could bring in Jasper, a rescue dog who has obedience training, to be a comfort to staff and volunteers.
She has since kept him with her in her department, and whoever wants a visit with Jasper just needs to ask or to drop by.
“Our unit has 55 volunteers, and he greets every one when they walk in the door. Every time a door opens, he is waiting to say hi,” Olinoski said.
“Some staff have supplies of dog treats in their offices for when he stops by and, as a result, he might have 10 extra pounds on him since we started!”
Jasper also provides comfort to victims – for example, when having to relay a traumatic experience to an investigator.
Jake came into the picture when he was adopted at Christmas time by human resources director Patricia Lo.
The puppy instantly bonded with her family and their two other dogs, and Lo thought Jake might make a good fit for the APD, especially with Jasper’s impending departure.
She asked APD Chief Mike Serr about the possibility of Jake taking over from Jasper, and he was supportive.
Lo has been bringing him into work ever since, getting Jake used to being around lots of people before he goes through advanced obedience training and, hopefully, receives accreditation as a comfort dog.
Lo said that Jake, whom she describes as “affectionate and sweet-natured,” is doing well with the integration.
“He is very adaptable to new surroundings and people. I have brought him through our buildings, and he has met so many people in and out of uniform, and he is social and curious,” she said.
Jake even has his own Instagram account (@jakethegoldenofthenorth) where people can keep up with his adventures and growth.
Lo said having Jasper and Jake around is a boost to the department.
“In this world of policing where our employees have to face challenging situations, having a dog to provide cuddles to when they return to the office is a small gesture that can brighten a day,” she said.