Nfld. & Labrador

For this officer, the RNC's new support dog is about more than police work

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has a new member — an 18-week-old Portuguese water dog.

Stella will be used for victim statements, testimony, and boosting officer morale

Const. Krista Fagan is the handler of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's first support dog. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Krista Fagan has responded to some horrific calls in her time with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and she has the invisible scars to show it.

The veteran constable suffers from post-traumatic stress and all that comes with it — the roller-coaster days, cycling through highs and lows.

The last seven weeks, she's had the help of a new furry compadre at her side.

Meet Stella, the RNC's new support dog.

Fagan suffers from a post-traumatic stress injury, and Stella will be an essential part of maintaining her mental health. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"Unfortunately some calls we tend to can be very stressful and can remain with you for many days, months and even years after responding to that call," Fagan said. 

"Having her with me day to day and going to work with me day to day, it's been so good for my mental health. I just love going into offices and seeing other officers light up when they see Stella."

Line of duty

Stella, a Portuguese water dog from Mississauga, Ont., is being trained to help wherever she can. Fagan will be her handler, and will bring her to work every day where she'll help make the police station more welcoming to visitors and victims, and help perk up other officers with her presence.

If all goes as planned, she will work with the general investigations and intimate partner violence unit, especially with the younger victims who have to speak with police officers.

"We hope that with training she'll be used as an aid, especially with child interviewing. You have young children coming in trying to tell a traumatic event," Fagan said. "She has a very calm demeanour, so hopefully it will help with them giving as much information as they can to the investigator."

Her duties will also extend outside the Fort Townshend headquarters, to community support spaces like the Gathering Place, and possibly even the city's courtrooms.

Testifying can be a daunting process, recalling traumatic events inside a sterile, drab courtroom. Stella could lend some comfort with her warm nature and wagging tail.

Stella is a Portuguese water dog, a breed known for its temperament and people-loving personality. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

As Fagan spoke with reporters outside RNC headquarters, Stella presented herself to everybody who walked by. People stopped to play with the dog regardless of their reason for being at the building.

"We've been to many places so far and it's well received," Fagan said. "Any time people see her they want to come up and say hello, and I encourage that."

Fagan said the idea of a support dog came from Chief Joe Boland after he attended a police conference on the mainland. The idea was funded by local businessman and dog-lover Jim Hynes, owner of Sea-Force Hyperbaric in St. John's.

Hynes has been involved with the RNC since 2015, supporting the canine unit and the new support dog.

"Without him, none of this would be possible," Fagan said.

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