Vern is a facility dog trained by the charity National Service Dogs.
Since the fall of 2015, Vern has been working with Kingston Police Sgt. Melanie Jefferies in the Sexual Assault Child Abuse Unit.
Jefferies says Vern is used in court and during police interviews with children and youth to help them when they have to talk about the trauma they have endured.
“Just petting a dog, that rhythmic motion reduces blood pressure, or hang on to the leash, rubbing the leash or petting reduces anxiety.”
Jefferies says since they’ve had Vern, he’s used between 90 and 100 times every year and is an invaluable tool when working difficult cases.
“Young children that we’re interviewing, they don’t want to leave their parents, they really trust the dog that’s the unconditional love of animals so they trust us through the dog.”
Vern was also a gift to the police force from the charitable organization National Service Dogs.
It was a valuable gift, says Jefferies, because a service dog can cost between $15,000 to $30,000 dollars to train.
That’s why Jefferies has teamed up with co-worker Jen Richardson, a civilian member of the police force, to host Vern’s holiday market.
The one-day event transforms the police station’s garage almost into a shopping mall.
This is the second year Jefferies and Richardson have organized the event to raise money for National Service Dogs.
Fund’s for National Service Dogs comes from vendor fees and raffles held throughout the day.
Richardson says the success of last year has drawn fifty vendors this year to the holiday market
“Sasha’s Designs is here all the way from Brooklin, Ont., we’ve got Cobourg representing, we have Trenton, we have Picton, that just goes to show our name has gotten out there.”
Service dogs can be trained to help people with autism and PTSD.
Lawrence Christensen came out to support the event with his service dog Lynx.
Christensen is a military veteran and has PTSD.
Before Lynx, Christensen says attending an event like the holiday market would have been difficult, if not impossible.
“I didn’t get out of the house, I didn’t do things with my family, I neglected myself and my family.”
Christensen says it was a two-year process for him to get Lynx and Lynx’s training took three years.
“He helps me with my anxiety, he wakes me from nightmares, he can turn lights on, he can cue me when I get anxious most times before it gets full-blown.”
Jefferies and Richardson hope to raise $5,000 which will sponsor three puppies through their first 18 months of training.