Pacific Assistance Dogs Society executive director Laura Watamanuk (holding Puma and joined by Cadence and Denali) accepts a cheque for just under $16,000 from Rotary Club of South Surrey president Patrick Hahn Wednesday, for the club’s sponsorship of an accredited facility dog for Sophie’s Place. (Tracy Holmes photo)

VIDEO: Supporting young victims

Trio of pups on hand Wednesday to accept Rotary funds for Pacific Assistance Dogs Society

The Rotary Club of South Surrey’s regular Wednesday-morning meeting was overflowing with cuteness this week, with special guests that included two puppies and their mother.

But the trio – 11-week-old Puma, her 3½-month-old sister Denali and their mother, Cadence – were on hand for some serious business: the presentation of funds by the club to the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society, for sponsorship of an accredited facility dog for Sophie’s Place in Surrey.

The child-advocacy centre focuses on providing specialized services to physically, mentally and sexually abused children.

PADS breeds, raises, trains and supports certified assistance dogs, partnering them with people living with disabilities, and with community care professionals.

It began its accredited-facility-dog program about seven years ago, and the dogs are “just making a tremendous impact in the agencies we place them,” said Laura Watamanuk, PADS’ executive director.

She credited Delta Police victim services co-ordinator Kim Gramlich – the handler of Canada’s first trauma canine, Caber – with the roots of its success.

Gramlich approached PADS with the idea of training a trauma dog about nine years ago, Watamanuk said. There are now 24 accredited facility dogs working across the country.

The animals assist in traumatic situations in ways people can’t, Watamanuk said.

“Having a dog there to comfort and touch, it’s remarkable, the healing,” she told the Rotarians.

“There was such a need, and nobody else was doing it.”

The Rotary club committed to raising $15,000 to help place a dog-and-handler team at Sophie’s Place, and through a series of document-shredding events – the latest on June 3 – surpassed the goal.

Judy Krawchuk, director of Sophie’s Place, predicted the dog, once in place, will make a significant difference.

“Thank you all so, so, so much for supporting this,” she told the club, extending the gratitude to community members who supported the shredding events.

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Watamanuk couldn’t say when a dog would be ready for Sophie’s Place – or if it might be either of the two four-legged guests that are currently in training.

Quite simply, it’s not a task that just any dog can do.

“The dog will come soon,” she said. “But finding that perfect match for Sophie’s Place, that takes time. It’s not a first-come, first-serve basis – it’s the best dog for Sophie’s Place.”

She added that earmarking funds for a specific agency is an unusual move for PADS, but that the society is “just so appreciative” of the efforts and community support that followed the decision.

The full cost of raising, training and placing a dog is more than $30,000, she said.

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