A Trauma K9 unit with the Delta Police Department has just returned from nearly a week in Las Vegas, where they were tasked with helping victims of the recent mass shooting cope with the aftermath of the attacks.

Caber, a Labrador retriever and his handler, Kim Gramlich, were the only Canadians on a team of eight other dog-handler pairs working with the victims. At least 59 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in the attack two weeks ago. 

"We worked in a couple of different locations," Gramlich told CBC host Early Edition host Rick Cluff. "Some people were doing OK. Some people were not doing so well."

Bringing comfort

Gramlich and Caber started out at a family assistance centre in Las Vegas, where they helped support and comfort victims and their families. Each day, they met with 25 to 50 people, she said.

"I remember one gal that we helped a tremendous amount who was struggling very much with her emotions and feeling tremendously overwhelmed," Gramlich said.

The woman, Gramlich said, had been hesitant to seek help at the assistance centre, at first, but changed her mind after working with Caber.

"The next day, she came back and brought friends who had also been hesitant and she said: 'I brought my friends here because I knew that Caber would be here and that he could help them,'" Gramlich said.

Knowing that Caber and his work were having a positive impact on people was very rewarding, Gramlich said.

"I know there are going to be people who remember that moving forward and that feels pretty special to us," she said.

The pair also worked with victims who had been hospitalized.

K9 team Las Vegas

Caber and his handler, Kim Gramlich, flew out to Las Vegas to work with a team of dogs and handlers. (Kim Gramlich)

Healing power

Because of their calm nature, facility dogs, like Caber, can have a strong healing effect on people suffering after a traumatic event, Gramlich explained.

"When you are watching Caber do his work, there is nothing fancy or spectacular," she said. "Really, what it comes down to is these dogs have the capacity to help people, through their ability to reduce people's blood pressure, lower their heart rate."

Spending time with facility dogs has also been shown to raise levels of the oxytocin hormone and help combat stress hormones like cortisol, Gramlich added.

Caber and Gramlich are experienced in dealing with the aftermath of traumatic events from crimes in Delta to the fires in Fort McMurray. This was the first time they dealt with such a large scale incident, however.  

"Caber did some exceptional work. He was the little rock star he always is," said Gramlich. "It was just so special to see the care be brought to people, when they were at such a difficult time in their lives."

The pair are now back in Vancouver, resting and recovering from the trip.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from The Early Edition.