The Red Deer RCMP Victim Services unit has a new recruit who is two-feet tall, walks on all fours and isn’t against snuggling.
Harley the dog, a service dog that helps young people in particular navigate through tough situations like losing a loved one and having to go to court, was officially sworn in and received his City of Red Deer dog tags.
Holly Erb, RCMP constable and program coordinator for Red Deer Victim Services, said Harley has already been working and has been in court assisting victims who have gone through tragedy and trauma.
“Harley is a service dog and he has been brought in to assist our clients and the victims, witnesses and family members of anyone who has been experiencing trauma or tragedy,” she said. “That can come in the way of crime or it can come in the way of a death of a loved one.
“He will provide emotional support for them through the system, whatever that looks like.”
According to Erb, Harley is very empathetic which is key to his assistance with victims of crime.
“I would say dogs have a sixth sense and they know when people need assistance,” she said. “We do find that with all the victim service dogs, as well as in other areas, they tend to go to a person who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety and stress. That may be a first responder in our office who they tend to go towards or it may be our clients.
“They innately move towards them to provide assistance.”
Harley will allow Victim Services to offer more quality care to their clients.
“A lot of of our clients, which are underreported, are children or were victims as children,” she said. “They are expected to travel through the criminal justice system just as an adult would and Harley is expected to support them through that.
“They can lean on Harley through that and they can have him present while they make their statements or testify in court.”
Tara Veer, Red Deer mayor, said the addition of Harley to the police force was made possible by the fundraising efforts of the 2017 Notre Dame High School graduating class.
“Notre Dame raised $38,000, which covered the acquisition and the operation costs to keep this recruit on duty,” she said. “Harley is two years old and comes to us ready for duty. He was in court yesterday and some of the characteristics we know about him is that he is very mild-mannered, which made him very appropriate to be a Victim Services dog.”
It was Veer who officially presented Harley with his dog tags, which includes the number 9-1-1 on them in order for the community to know where he belongs.
“He is the first of our therapy dogs and he will serve victims, the RCMP and he will serve our community,” Veer said.