'An outpouring of grief': Saskatoon mourns after death of therapy dog that visited Broncos vigil, prisoners

Tributes have been pouring in after the death of Subie, a therapy dog who regularly visited correctional centres and addictions clinics across Saskatchewan.

Subie regularly visited addictions clinics, jails across Saskatchewan

People across the province are mourning the loss of Subie, a well-known therapy dog in Saskatoon. (Submitted by Colleen Dell)

Colleen Dell has received a flood of social media posts since Subie, a Saskatoon therapy dog, died last month.

"It was an outpouring of grief, and support and stories of how important those connections were that he made," Colleen Dell told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. "It just kind of all came flooding at once."

Dell, a sociology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, spent six years using Subie to bring light to some people in dark situations, from prisons to drug clinics.

The boxer unexpectedly died after a tumour burst in his spleen during a visit to northern Saskatchewan.

Subie was a regular fixture at Saskatoon's Lighthouse, as well as drug rehabilitation programs across the province.

Dell, a centennial enhancement chair at the U of S, specializes in therapy dogs and how they can help people deal with addictions and stressful situations.

While Dell said there had been a lot of research done on companion animals, there hasn't been much done on therapy dogs brought in to intervene in people's lives.

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She said the dogs can offer emotional support to people without any judgment, something that's very important when dealing with vulnerable people.

"That dog is (showing) there is no judgment. There is no stigma. There is nothing there except a pure connection and that is so incredibly meaningful for that individual."

After Subie's death, tributes began to flood in over social media. (Submitted by Colleen Dell)

She said dogs like Subie can be very helpful for people going through hard times.

"It's almost you could walk into the jail with the therapy dog and the energy changes right away," she said. "What we hear a lot, particularly in the jails is, 'I forget where I am. I forget that I'm institutionalized. I forget that these bars are here.' "

Subie was regularly brought in to correctional centres across Alberta and Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Colleen Dell)

Subie was also brought to Humboldt two days after the fatal crash that killed 16 people. Dell said the dog was very gifted at finding particularly stressed people and helping them.

"He chose people," she said. "There would be someone in the middle of the row and then he would go to them and he would hug them right. He would choose these people and he would stay there for a long time."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning