KIM & CABER

I could write a book about Caber.

The book would begin with an idea.  The idea that a dog could help victims of crime in ways that humans could not.  Like some ideas that seem to fizzle, this idea stayed front and centre in my mind until I did something about it.  My eventual pitch to Delta Police management went something like this:

Me: “Would you please support me in getting a dog to work in Victim Services.  The dog’s job will be to help victims”.

The Bosses: “But isn’t it your job to help victims?”

Me: “Yes, but I think the dog could maybe even do a better job than me!”

The Bosses: “OK, not a ringing endorsement for you!  So, who has done this before?”

Me: “No one.”

The Bosses: “How do you know it will be a success?”

Me: “I don’t…but who doesn’t love dogs?”

The Bosses: “Do you have the budget for it?”

Me: “No, but if you’re going to say no because of money then I’ll pay for everything myself.”

There was more to the conversation but suffice to say…they had good questions. I had few answers but we moved forward with our hair on fire and only a semblance of a plan.  All the best stories start this way, right?

The next few chapters of our book would be dedicated to PADS.  I’ll never forget my PADS interview with Ron Tymrick where he asked me to describe what I needed a dog to be able to do.  I explained that the dog would be working with victims of crime and trauma.  The dog had to be comfortable with people expressing extreme emotion, attending scenes of traumatic events, be comfortable with all types of people, be able to attend any and all locations imaginable, sit quietly for long periods of time during forensic interviews and not disrupt court proceedings, etc.  I believe Ron’s next words were “well, we’ve never done that before!”.  But, in true Ron fashion, his heart was immediately with “the client” and by client I mean victims.  When I told him stories of client experiences he was convinced PADS had to find us a dog.

Sometime thereafter I had a visit from Margaret…and 6 dogs.  I knew Caber was meant to be my boy from the minute I laid eyes upon him.  Even with 6 gorgeous dogs before me I was completely mesmerized by one yellow lab, and one yellow lab only.  Caber rocked his first walkthrough of our offices and building.  He had no adverse reactions to police lights and sirens and seemingly only wanted to snuggle with me.  The feeling was mutual.  I remember feeling empty when he left that day.  I knew I still had to wait for PADS to call me and offer me a dog (maybe not Caber) and then I’d still have to wait for team training.  But my heart was impatient, it knew it needed Caber.

The day Keryn Turner called from PADS and said “Kim, we’ve decided we’d like to place Caber with you” was kind of like being told you’ve been selected to have the most kickass partner in the world and you’re about to start life’s greatest adventure together.

There would be a chapter about more of the extraordinary people at PADS.  It would start with Caber’s puppy raiser, Jamie.  I can’t even begin to describe the gift she gave to the world by raising Caber to be such a stellar pup.  Next would be Keryn Turner who was Caber’s advanced trainer.  Keryn had the expertise to know that although Caber could do all the service dogs skills…he just wanted to give and receive love and she needed to find an ideal way for him to do that.  I desperately hope we’ve made these ladies proud.

The PADS chapters would talk about countless exceptional people.  Many of these people weren’t involved in the raising of Caber but they all play an integral role in make PADS a wonderful organization.  I’d list volunteers, admin staff, trainers and board members.  I’d definitely talk about the one thing that all of these people have…passion.  Passion like that of Laura Watamanuk who lives and breathes PADS.  These folks all realize that the work of PADS isn’t really work at all.  PADS is like a calling or a mission.  It might be the dogs, their work or the clients they serve that captures our hearts.  No matter what, there is something extraordinary about PADS that keeps us all close.  We’re a community of like-minded people that appreciate the gift dogs bring to this world.

There would be a chapter in the book about difficult bumps along the road.  I would be lying if I said it’s been easy.  The easiest thing about this adventure has been Caber.  What’s not been easy is overcoming barriers.  These barriers including people and systems with conservative or archaic ideas of addressing victim’s needs.  People who don’t understand that it’s our collective responsibility to make the victim experience an easier one.  There were even people who, perhaps due to jealously or small-mindedness, went out of their way to vocalize negativity about this victim-centred initiative.  The list goes on but it’s really not worth worrying about because we have always used this negative energy to fuel on our end goal…helping victims.

There would have to be chapters in the book about the impact Caber has had on victims of crime and trauma.  The book would begin with the story of Laura.  Laura was a beautiful 15 year old who was murdered and died the day Caber graduated from PADS.  Laura’s family and friends were the first to benefit from Caber’s love.  Caber and Laura will always be, to me, the “two who never met”.

These chapters would include the story of the little girl Caber accompanied to court, a first time ever in BC.  That story would be followed by the case where, according to Crown Counsel, the offender would not have been convicted where it not for Caber’s integral support to the teenage victim during through her testimony.  The next story might be the boy who ended up in hospital after being told of his father’s death.  No one and nothing could help him…until Caber came along and jumped into his hospital bed.  The book would be filled with stories of people who said things like “Caber was the only thing that helped me” or “Caber was exactly what I needed”.

The book will inevitably have chapters about other Victim Services programs who got Facility dogs like Caber.  You see, every time we hear about a new Facility Dog somewhere in Canada we have a party!  We have a party because victims are the victors in this book.  When a Facility Dog joins a victim on their journey they are more likely to suffer less when they have to tell their story over and over again.  They are more likely to feel less stressed during police interviews or while testifying in court.  They are less likely to negatively describe their experience with the Criminal Justice System and they are more likely to feel that they needs were met.  The book will be long because the stories are endless and the impact is far reaching.

There will be a chapter called “the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve done”.  That chapter will be dedicated to our adventures!  There will be stories of travel to places like Dallas, San Diego, Washington, New York, Toronto, Fort McMurray and Moose Jaw!  It will include pictures of Caber in jail, at the Empire State Building, Parliament, the White House, on the USS Midway, in planes, trains and automobiles.  It will include stories of requests to attend weddings and funerals and even a marriage proposal.  There would be silly stories about puppy dreams in meetings and falling off stages during important keynote speeches.  There might even be a paragraph dedicated to all of the people Caber has kissed!

The book would be filled with themes of appreciation.  Appreciation to Delta Police who, from the beginning to the end, have provided unfaltering support.  It would be an incomplete story if it didn’t mention Crown Counsel, Winston Sayson, who is a huge reason dogs work in courtrooms in Canada today.  There would be additional thanks to many colleagues, friends and family members who are our biggest champions.  These people have gone out of their way to support Caber and I in countless ways so we can pursue our mission.

But I’m sorry to say that there isn’t a book.  That’s because the story isn’t even close to over.  Caber has a bit of time until his days of afternoon naps in the sunshine begin.  Even so, when Caber retires there are many others who continue on in this important work.  We can’t wait to hear more stories from Tia & Merlot, Pat & Orca, Sue & Lucca, Dede & Calypso, Donna & Kane, Vivian & Milan and too many other dynamic duos than we can mention.

If there is a book someday, somewhere within might be an indulgent chapter about Caber and I.  This chapter will be the hardest one to write because there aren’t words to describe the love I have for this dog.  The chapter would tell you that Caber is the reason I still work in the field of Victim Services.  He’s the reason I can continue to hear countless difficult victim stories and feel emotionally healthy to do my job.  He’s the reason I smile about 18,000 times a day.  The chapter would also tell you that Caber is the reason my heart is vulnerable.  You see, my heart sits outside my chest.  It wanders around with a gorgeous yellow Labrador Retriever.  Every time Caber makes a child giggle or makes a distraught victim smile my heart grows a bit bigger.  One day it might simply burst from the pride I feel for my boy.

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Ken and Riddle at PADS Grad in 2013
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