It’s not for the faint of heart — working with victim services can be demanding and draining, but also rewarding.
Adonus Arlett spends her time assisting victims of tragedy or crime as they navigate the justice system, but she says she couldn’t do her job without her one-of-a-kind partner, Madison.
“I have seen the most amazing things from a small child to a grown adult say, ‘I can’t do this, I cannot talk about this,’ and then they meet Madison and and you just watch them unfold, and they are like, ‘OK, I can do this if she’s with me,'” Arlett says.
Seven-year-old Madison is a trained trauma support dog with the Lethbridge Corridor Victim Services Unit. She and her partner have been working together for four years.
“She just has this innate ability to connect with people,” Arlett gushes.
The pair spends much of their time at police stations or at the courthouse, offering support to victims, often children who are needed to testify during court proceedings.
“Madison can go places I just simply can’t, like right up on the stand with an individual,” Arlett says. “When they are talking, Madison will comfort them.”
Madison is a yellow Labrador retriever with a keen sense for human emotion. The subtle touch with her nose or the simple warmth from her body can sooth those in a vulnerable state.
“I often encourage people to wear flip-flops or shoes they can slip off so they can feel her warmth and she can smell them and touch them, and let them know, ‘it’s OK, we are in this together,” Arlett says.
Chief crown prosecutor Erin Olsen works closely with Madison and knows firsthand the the ability she has to soothe.
Madison’s job can leave her drained and she often brings her work home with her.
“She takes on so much emotion,” Arlett says. “Madison has — just like any other human would doing this type of work without being able to release — post-traumatic stress, so her job has just weared on her so much.
“She has seen a lot of trauma.”
Madison is preparing to retire and a new dog will take on her support role with Arlett.
But her hard work is getting recognized. She has received the Alberta Chief of Police Award and most recently, the Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Community Justice Award.
“She really has done so much,” Arlett says. “It’s a beautiful thing to get ready and know that she is going to be able to retire and relax and just be a dog.”
While retirement is still a few months away, Arlett says downtime is important. Madison loves to swim, get her nails done and, of course, to celebrate her birthday.
“Today is her birthday, today she is seven,” Arlett said on Wednesday.