On Wednesday, March 16th, the ARCH Hospice was treated to a very special visit: Constable Barry Kelly of the OPP, Dan Turco of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, and Don Abbott from Canada Border Services Agency, brought along their K9 colleagues. Timber and Justice, two beautiful German Sheppard dogs, and Easy, an energetic and lovable Springer Spaniel, visited with residents, staff, and volunteers.
The Ontario Provincial Police has partnered with the K9 program for 51 years. German Sheppard dogs are the most commonly chosen breed due to their keen sense of smell, athleticism, and trainability. To the officers that work with these canines every day, they are much more than just dogs: they are family.
Constable Kelly, an OPP officer for the last 22 years, was kind enough to talk with ARCH staff and volunteers about his K9 counterpart, Timber, their relationship, and what it takes to be a K9 handler.
Police dogs undergo 4 months of intensive training at the OPP Academy Canine Training Centre in Gravenhurst. These dogs begin their training as early as 18-24 months old. Upon completion of the initial 4 month training period, K9 and handler continue to receive refresher training every 8 weeks.
Careful selection is given when matching a K9 with their handler. As Constable Kelly mentioned, Police dogs typically live with their handler and the pair are often on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a result, it is crucial that the K9 and officer bond. Constable Kelly and Timber have been working together for years and the bond they share is immediately noticeable.
While Constable Kelly talked with staff and volunteers (and Timber received plenty of admiration), officers Don and Dan brought Justice and Easy to meet ARCH residents. The Police dogs were incredibly gentle as they interacted with residents. Justice, the shy and sweet Sheppard, even climbed into bed with one resident and relished in all of the attention. It was a moment words can’t describe.
The joy that the police dogs brought to Hospice is deeply appreciated. Thank you Constable Kelly and officers Don and Dan, for spending the afternoon at ARCH Hospice!