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Airdrie support dog and handler nab Alberta Community Justice Award

A support dog from Airdrie and his handler are the proud recipients of an Alberta Community Justice Award.

A support dog from Airdrie and his handler are the proud recipients of an Alberta Community Justice Award.

On July 16, trauma dog handler Debbie Reid and her dog Jake took home one of the provincial government's awards, which acknowledge their contributions toward supporting victims and preserving justice in their community.

“Jake and I are so incredibly honoured to receive this prestigious award on behalf of Airdrie and District Victims Assistant Society,” said Reid, who is also a court coordinator for the local non-profit. “We would like to acknowledge our entire unit, including staff and volunteers and the RCMP, with whom we partner, to provide support to our community.

“We are especially grateful to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides that bred and trained Jake, and to Kiwanis Foothills who support our trauma dog program.”

While she admitted she found out about the award prior to the award ceremony, Reid said it has been a bit of a whirlwind since the news went public.

“I did find out a few weeks ago, but we weren’t allowed to release any information until this Friday just gone,” she said. “I must say, it’s kind of exciting. I’m pleasantly surprised at how interested everyone has been in it and I’m quite flattered.”

Reid noted Jake has become a bit of a local celebrity since news articles were first written about his and Reid's nomination for the award earlier this year.

“We were walking him on the weekend and a stranger approached us to ask if he was the dog they had heard about,” she said. “He’s pretty nonchalant about it, but I’m happy.”

Jake is a five-year old, purebred, black Labrador, who has been actively assisting the Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society (ADVAS) since he joined the non-profit society in November 2019. To date, according to a City of Airdrie press release, Jake has worked on 47 court files as a trauma support dog, including meetings and court attendance, and supported 89 victims including children, youth and adults.

“My job is to monitor court proceedings for the accused, and we prep people and attend court with them,” Reid said. “Having Jake along, he’s entered as a court aid…but he goes right up to the stand with witnesses to help them testify.

“With his specific training, he doesn’t bark, fidget or move around much. He understands when people are stressed or upset and he wants to touch them. He’ll reach out with his nose or move around and lay on their feet – he just wants you to pet him to help absorb some of that anxiety you have.”

According to the provincial government's website, the Alberta Community Justice Awards recognize individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to preventing crime in their communities. This year's ceremony marked the 30th iteration of the awards.

In a statement, Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown said the City was rooting for Jake and Reid to claim the award this year.

“We are extremely proud of Debbie and Jake and very grateful that they’ve been recognized for the positive impact they’ve made in Airdrie and area,” he said. “This is well-deserved praise for the tremendous support they provide to some of our most vulnerable community members.”

While Jake is available 24/7 to serve as a trauma dog, when he is off-duty, he’s just a regular pet, according to Reid, and also a key member of her family.

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