The Zebra Child Protection Centre has welcomed a new dog to its Very Important Paws (VIP) team.
Cajun is a two-year-old black Labrador retriever. He officially joined the Zebra Centre in March 2022 as an accredited facility dog, after extensive training by the Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society.
The Zebra Child Protection Centre is a non-profit, community-based organization that supports children who have suffered abuse.
Last year, the organization supported 3,844 children and youth in the Edmonton area. That’s a jump from 2,844 children the year before.
As a facility dog, Cajun will provide support and comfort to children, youth and their non-offending caregivers while they visit the centre and go through the Edmonton Law Courts system. The dogs often support the children in waiting rooms and while they testify in court.
Cajun may also be there to provide support through forensic interviews.
The dogs in the VIP program use their calming and cuddling abilities to comfort children through their healing journey.
“Facility dogs provide unique support and comfort that no human can offer, and they are an integral part of our multidisciplinary team that works to provide support and services for children and youth who have been impacted by abuse,” said Emmy Stuebing, CEO of the Zebra Child Protection Centre.
“Our facility dogs work hard to remind children and youth of their bravery as they tell their story and we are so grateful to have Cajun join our team to do this important work.”
Cajun joins Fletcher and Captain, who are already part of the VIP program. Cajun’s position on the team is sponsored by the Ladies on the Green Golf Classic, a golf event that supports the Zebra Centre.
The pup began training when he was just three days old. He joined the centre’s puppy raising program when he was 10 weeks old and attended weekly training classes until he was 16 months old.
At that time, Cajun began his advanced training to become a facility dog.
When he’s not working hard or training, Cajun enjoys long naps and running at the dog park. His favourite snacks are peanut butter and yogurt treats.
In 2021, the VIP team met with children and youth 622 times to lend support within the Zebra Centre, during their forensic interviews and through judicial proceedings at the Edmonton Law Courts.