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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Laredo Sector Border Patrol and Vancouver Transit Police Welcome Therapy Canines

Situations faced by border guards, police officers, and other staff can leave them at an increased risk of stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma.

Officers at Laredo Sector Border Patrol have welcomed their first support canine named Pearl to the federal workforce.

Last week, U.S. Border Patrol launched a support canine program to help improve the mental health of the Border Patrol workforce nationwide. On Jan.24, Laredo Sector Border Patrol introduced Pearl, a 6-year-old yellow Labrador born on March 29, 2017, to the federal workforce where she welcomed hugs and brought smiles to all Laredo Sector employees. Border Patrol says Pearl also truly enjoys playing with her favorite rope toy. 

Canine Pearl started as a guide dog, trained in obedience, and continues her training as a support canine. Border Patrol Chaplains and Peer Support Members will serve as the new Support Canine handlers, providing emotional care while maintaining confidentiality. These special assigned canines will help improve emotional readiness, guided by Chaplain and Peer Support Member handlers to start important conversations that can lead to quicker recovery and healing in a stressful environment.

Laredo Sector Border Patrol agents and civilian employees are ecstatic to have canine Pearl and appreciate the US Border Patrol for launching this program. Canine Pearl will be visiting other law enforcement agencies, the community at various outreach events and will be available during any critical situation.

The program goes hand in paw with Border Patrol’s commitment to provide its workforce and their families with resources and programs that help promote a balanced, healthy approach to life in the workplace and at home.

Along similar lines, Metro Vancouver Transit Police (MVTP) recently welcomed an Accredited Facility Dog (AFD) named Norquay to its dog team. Unlike the existing seven Transit Police dogs that are trained to detect explosives and firearms, Norquay’s job is to assist with the mental health of Transit Police employees.

Laredo Sector Border Patrol and Vancouver Transit Police Welcome Therapy Canines Homeland Security Today
Norquay with handler Judy MVTP

On December 12, 2022, Norquay, a 3-year-old Labrador Retriever Cross, and his handler successfully completed the AFD training program and began working to provide physical, social and emotional support to Transit Police officers and civilian staff. The situations faced by police officers, dispatchers and other staff can leave them at an increased risk of stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma. Norquay’s calming presence and AFD training allow employees to decompress and better defuse after an event.

Norquay was bred, raised and trained by PADS (Pacific Assistance Dog Society). Accredited Facility Dogs differ from traditional “therapy dogs” in that they are purpose bred for a strong health and temperament – including the high level of resilience that is required to work full time in a role like this.

“We’re excited about this new partnership with Metro Vancouver Transit Police. Norquay was selected from amongst several incredible candidates because of his suitability for the placement. Norquay is a beautiful blend of calm, cool and collected with a dash of fun and silly; he is drawn to emotion, particularly in people who are stressed or upset. Norquay is incredibly resilient and shakes off the stress of the day really nicely; we know this will allow him to positively impact the MVTP team for many years to come.” – Laura Watamanuk, PADS Executive Director

Norquay lives with his handler Judy, who works as the Assistant to the Operations Inspector, and is a part of her family. When he’s not working, he enjoys a spirited game of tug with his favorite rope or a run in the park with his PADS friends.

“Whether Norquay is snuggled up to you with his head in your lap after a stressful situation, or he’s having one of his famous naps at the feet of officers debriefing following a difficult incident, his calming presence and gentle manner help to ease the tension,” said Constable Amanda Steed.

The Border Patrol and MVTP programs provide another example of how man’s best friend can also be a valuable asset to security, emergency response and law enforcement operations across the United States and globally.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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