Therapist Mackenzie Graham, at Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, says her dog Sylvie, the Bernese Mountain Dog, is already showing traits that indicate she will make her a wonderful therapy dog. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Therapy dog at Red Deer support centre

Sylvie the puppy comforts clients

Sylvie the Bernese Mountain Dog is just a puppy, but she is quickly growing into her role as a future therapy dog at Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

“Everybody is completely in love with this baby. The reaction, it’s amazing. It’s like magic,” said executive director Patricia Arango about the eight-week-old puppy that will be trained as a therapy dog to make clients feel more comfortable and safe.

The support centre works with victims of all ages and provides crisis and short-term counselling to victims of sexual abuse, or sexual assault, and their families.

Sylvie, who will be the second therapy dog at the centre, started coming to work with therapist Mackenzie Graham on Friday.

Graham said the focus right now is to socialize Sylvie.

“She already loves to go visit everybody in the office. This morning, she visited every therapist.”

She is also a hit with children who come for therapy.

“One of them dressed her up, tried different sunglasses on her. She just sat and let her do that. One was swaddling her like a baby, so she’s really great already. I have no doubts she’s going to be amazing.”

Graham said Sylvie will grow up to be big dog and that will make for big, furry hugs and snuggles.

Arango said the centre has always been a pet-friendly place where people can bring their dogs. Some clients have even brought their cats. Now people are stopping by to see Sylvie.

“The most important thing is to provide a safe place,” Arango said.

May is Sexual Violence Awareness Month. On Friday, The Power of Collaboration: A Collective Forum, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Baymont by Wyndham featuring a panel of professionals and survivors of crime, a speaker, and breakout sessions in the afternoon.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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