The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre is a place where staff deal with the most severe cases of child abuse. Now they have added two very special members to their team to help the vulnerable kids – trauma dogs.
Webster and Axel recently joined the team, and the centre’s lead director says they’re invaluable to the children’s journey of healing.
“For a long time, with these issues, we dealt with them in the back corner,” Kennedy said. “The reality is, we know the impact of these kids and it’s real.
“We need to do the best we can to give these kids the life they want to have and one of the pieces to that is the dogs.”
The pair of canines were trained by an organization called Dogs with Wings. The executive director, Doreen Slessor, said certain dogs can sense anxiety or discomfort and are trained to put a reassuring paw or their head on the lap of the person in distress.
“We always say our dogs choose their careers, we don’t choose it for them,” Slessor said.
“Axel and Webster showed a natural skill and talent to gauge when someone in the room is upset.”
Webster, the two-year-old yellow Lab is partnered with Emily Synnott.
She works as a child-life specialist at the Child Advocacy Centre, and has witnessed firsthand the extraordinary impact the dogs have on the children.
“It’s just amazing how they let children relax and share their stories,” Synnott said.
“They have a power that us humans don’t have. It’s very special.”
These dogs need their own care and attention too — because they are absorbing heartbreak and trauma they take regular play breaks and have a lot of downtime to recover.