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Red Deer support dog retires after four years

Victim Services Unit and Red Deer RCMP bid farewell to six-year-old Harley
Suzanne Couturier, court support worker and facility dog handler with Victim Services Unit, and Red Deer RCMP Sgt. Karyn Kay take a photo with support dog Harley. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Six-year-old support dog Harley has helped more than 300 individuals and families during his four-year career.

On Friday, the black Labrador retriever’s retirement was celebrated by Red Deer RCMP and the City of Red Deer’s Victim Services Unit.

“He has done a lot of great work with some families,” said Sgt. Karyn Kay, who is in charge of the Red Deer RCMP’s community response details section, which victim services falls under.

“Harley is always around the building – he just kind of takes care of all of us. He’s right there when we need him. He’s able to attend court, he sits with victims, especially children while taking statements. He’s done a lot of work with (Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre) as well.

“We’re going to miss him and will certainly have a void in the next couple of months not having a dog to help us in those times of need.”

The process to obtain a new facility dog has begun – a replacement for Harley is expected by January 2023.

Harley was the first support dog to work at the detachment.

“I think that’s why it’s so hard to say goodbye,” Kay said.

Suzanne Couturier, court support worker and facility dog handler with the Victim Services Unit, said she will miss Harley.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like working with a canine partner … and being able to see the impact that he had on me and my career, as well as the entire community, was awesome,” said Couturier.

Harley has logged nearly 700 hours of work over the past four years and has regularly provided support at the Red Deer Provincial Court and the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.

Most support dogs retire between when they are between six and eight years old, Couturier said, adding Harley works with victims during incredibly difficult cases, so it makes sense to retire him at six.

“He’s had a lot of jobs and he’s had a big job. He’s tired and we can tell,” she said.

“It can be anywhere from having Harley assist with a forensic interview to going, to court with somebody and having Harley be a testimonial aid, to visiting with people in the detachment.”

It takes two years to become a support dog. Harley was trained through Dogs with Wings.

A support dog will go through a series of tests to determine if they can become a facility dog or a one-on-one support dog. After training and testing is completed, the agency decided what line of work would be best suited for the dog.

Now retired, Harley will continue living with his family in Red Deer.

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Harley, a facility dog with the City of Red Deer’s Victim Services Unit. enjoys a treat during his retirement celebration at the downtown RCMP detachment Friday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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