Quebec's beloved 1st police support dog hangs up its leash after helping hundreds of young victims

Kanak, a psychological support dog for Sherbrooke’s police service, is retiring after a busy five years of mostly helping kids who have suffered physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

Kanak, a Labrador retriever, accompanied children as they were interviewed by police or testified in court

Over a period of about five years, Kanak helped more than 400 people. Mostly child victims of abuse were assisted, but adults were as well. (Radio-Canada)

Kanak, a psychological support dog for Sherbrooke's police service, is retiring after a busy five years of helping kids who have suffered physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

The Labrador retriever was the first police dog in Quebec to take on the job of helping young victims through the stress that comes with being interviewed by police or testifying in court. 

The dog carried out 429 interventions in all, also helping officers who had been traumatized on the job while strengthening the police service's connection to the community

"It was a heartwarming presence," said Martin Carrier, a spokesperson for Sherbrooke's police service.

The dog's notoriety extends well beyond the Eastern Townships, Carrier said.

Kanak is retiring after a busy five years of helping kids deal with the stress and trauma of the police and court system. (Martin Bilodeau/Radio-Canada)

"Kanak has been around the world," he said. "We received messages from everywhere."

The Mira Foundation, an organization that helps train assistance dogs, decided it was time for the dog to retire after an extensive evaluation of his performance on the job. 

It was determined that Kanak was running out of steam, and was unable to continue supporting those in severe distress.

The evaluation found that the dog was no longer happy to see people and was going into new jobs with his head down. 

Evaluators observed Kanak no longer wanted to be petted and "these are clear signs the dog wanted to have peace," said Nicolas Saint-Pierre, director of the Mira Foundation.

Saint-Pierre said Kanak was exposed to strong emotions and dogs are not immune to these volatile situations. In the long run, it wears them out, he said. 

Unlike other assistance dogs, Kanak was not always with his owner and this may have contributed to the animal's stress.

In fact, Kanak worked with five different officers and the Mira Foundation says it has learned from this first-time experience. 

Mélanie Bédard proposed the project back in 2016 and now Kanak is going home to live with her in retirement. (Martin Bilodeau/Radio-Canada)

Kanak will return to live with the person who proposed the project in 2016, Mélanie Bédard.

"My family and I are more than happy that Kanak is coming back to live at home and enjoy his much deserved retirement. It made it possible to bring more humanity and comfort to the judicial process" she said. 

"Kanak was perfect in his role as a good dog."

Kanak helped hundreds of kids and many adults, Bédard explained, namely giving children the extra strength they needed to share key details with police.

She said she is grateful to all those who believed in my proposed project, and now "the time has come for us to enjoy life, and wish the next dog a very successful career."

with files from Radio-Canada