She’s got the job of being cute and cuddly down pat — but when Marielle puts on her vest, the working dog has an even more important job at the Beausejour Family Crisis Resource Centre in Shediac, N.B.
“Her role is to provide a sense of support a calming companionship,” said the centre’s director, Kristal LeBlanc
LeBlanc says Marielle, a black standard poodle, is one of only 43 dogs in Canada trained as what’s often called a “justice facility dog.” The support dog’s role is to help provide emotional support to victims of crime and abuse.
“When you are a victim of crime, your cortisol fires, which is you fight, flight or freeze response. And then when you navigate the [justice] system, and you are being asked to tell your story, your body thinks you are reliving it,” said LeBlanc.
She says Marielle’s caring eyes and calm nature will be called upon to sit with victims navigating the justice system in hopes of settling those stress hormones. The working dog will be used to offer a supportive paw to clients at the crisis centre and also when people are being interviewed by police.
WATCH: Special role of trauma dogs in Canadian legal process (May 29, 2015)
“As well as during forensic medical exams — if you are a victim of sexual trauma and then all the way into the courtroom where she will be providing support behind the witness stand,” said LeBlanc.
Marielle graduated as a support dog in April from Dog Guides Canada in Oakville, Ont., which provides the dogs free of charge to organizations that support victims of crime.