The Caribou Centre in Grande Prairie will be getting a therapy dog. The centre works with children and youth who are the victims of some sort of crime or abuse, and Very Special Paws focuses on training therapy dogs to work in the justice system.

Trainer Michelle Hauser works with her dog Lucy to help people through all the steps of the legal process. She says people feel a sense of empowerment when the dogs are around.

“Normally they’re so tense and rightfully so. What we see, especially in children, is a whole transformation in their character. They now have something to look after during the day so they don’t have to sit and think about their court case all day.”

The dogs they work worth are considered “changed career dogs”. They started off with guide dog training but didn’t meet their strict guidelines. Therapy work is more about a dog;s temperment.

Hauser and her dog Lucy are based out of an RCMP detachment in central Alberta where she says they are busy every day.

“She sits in on forensic interviews and sometimes when a member really needs her she kind of disappears from my office.”

Recently, the province added five new organizations that are approved to train, test and provide service dogs. The move is expected to help organizations like Very Special Paws and Grande Prairie’s Hope Heels meet the growing demand for service and support animals.

Hauser says her and Lucy have done work in the area before to offer support during some legal proceedings in the past. She adds Very Special Paws will be supplying a dog to the Caribou Centre here in Grande Prairie.