An Edmonton support dog who has offered comfort to hundreds of child sex abuse survivors is heading into retirement.
Wren, a Labrador Retriever, will celebrate her retirement from the Zebra Child Protection Centre on Feb. 27.
“It’s going to have an impact on the centre for sure,” said Brooklyn Alcock, director of justice partnerships. “We’re definitely going to miss having her around. But that means she’s going to be able to just be a normal dog now when she retires.”
The centre brings together law enforcement members, medical professionals and other staff to provide support and care to children and youth who have suffered abuse.
Wren is part of the Very Important Paws (VIP) program. Wren and Fletcher, the other trained support dog at Zebra, met with children and youth 536 times in 2019.
“When children come in for their forensic interviews, she sits in and provides that emotional support … while they’re talking to police and sharing their story,” Alcock said.
Wren made history in 2015, becoming the first facility dog allowed to support a child on the stand while they provided testimony at the Edmonton Law Courts.
Last year alone, Wren provided support to children, youth and their families 265 times.
In 2019, about 94 per cent of the centre’s cases were Edmonton police referrals.
“The Zebra Child Protection Centre provides crucial support to some of the most vulnerable children and youth in our communities,” EPS Chief Dale McFee said.
“Each partnering agency brings a unique set of skills to the table to ensure every case is addressed in the most supportive manner. This is an example of an integrated business model that actually works and demonstrates what can be accomplished when we all work together.”
The Zebra Child Protection Centre was established in 2002.