BONYVILLE – After nine years of service to Bonnyville Victim Services (BVS), Odie is ready to hang up his service dog leash once and for all.
Born in March of 2012, Odie was trained by Dogs With Wings before he began working at the Bonnyville RCMP detachment in 2014 with Debbie Winstone, Odie’s handler and the program manager for BVS.
On Friday, a retirement barbecue was held in Odie’s honour marking close to a decade of service.
Odie is the second Victim Services dog to be employed in the province and the first service dog to be strictly designated for RCMP support, explains Winstone.
During his time with the BVS and RCMP, Odie sat in on countless RCMP interviews providing support for adults and children in distress or those who had experienced a traumatic incident.
Odie has also travelled across the northeast region to provide court support in communities such as Lloydminster, St. Paul and Wainwright.
The Golden Labrador Retriever is now ready to pass the reins on to his canine co-worker Romeo but that doesn’t mean he won’t swing by for a visit at the detachment here and there, says Winstone.
While Odie will lose his Service Dog Certification, he will continue to volunteer in the community making regular visits to the Long Term Care Units when he is not relaxing at home.
With big changes slated to be introduced for Victim Services Units by the provincial government, Winstone says it is uncertain if another four-legged recruit will join the detachment.
For now, Romeo will continue to take over Odie’s caseload and fill in for court support.
Winstone notes that over the years, Odie and Romeo have also provided comfort to RCMP members who may have also been impacted by trauma seen or experienced on the job.
“Odie can sense when something is going on and he wants to calm them, that’s his job,” she says.