Families at Vancouver's Canuck Place Children’s Hospice have a new friendly face to bring them comfort and emotional support during tough times.
The Hospice recently welcomed its newest "accredited facilities" dog: an adorable yellow Labrador Retriever named Gaia. She is a product of the Burnaby-based Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), which breeds, raises and trains fully certified assistance dogs.
As a therapy dog, Gaia—along with her handlers, long-time Canuck Place nurse practitioner Camara Van Breemen and nurse Brenda Dewar—will support the care of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families at Canuck Place’s Vancouver and Abbotsford hospices, in addition to supporting patient care both at home and during hospital consults.
Canuck Place staff are "thrilled" to welcome their newest team member, said Canuck Place CEO Tarnia Taverner in a release.
“The past year has been challenging for so many of the children and families we care for, as life-threatening illnesses don’t stop or ease in a pandemic," she added. "Gaia’s presence at Canuck Place brings joy, happiness and stability in a very unstable time. The children Canuck Place provides complex medical care for will benefit from connecting, touching and feeling love from Gaia.”
Gaia was selected from "dozens of candidates" to take over the leash from Canuck Place's previous therapy pup, a beloved and dearly-missed Golden Retriever named Poppy. She sadly passed due to cancer in 2018 after 11 years of service.
Gaia was chosen for the role based on her "ability to seek out those that need her support," and, "perhaps more importantly, [because] she can support them without taking on the stress herself," said Laura Watamanuk, PADS' executive director.
"This is a rare trait in dogs, just as it is in the special humans that work at Canuck Place.”
In a special coincidence, Gaia was raised and trained by the same pair of long-time PADS volunteer puppy-raisers who brought up her Canuck Place predecessor, Poppy.
Gaia's role at the Hospice is made possible by YVR for Kids, an annual gala and golf tournament presented by Clear Skies Children’s Foundation. Its committee created a fund to support the Canuck Place Therapy Dog program after witnessing "the incredible impact" Poppy had on the children and families that Canuck Place cares for.
"It brings an immense smile to the YVR for Kids committee’s faces just knowing the comfort and joy that she will bring to the children and families of Canuck Place," said Nigel Newsome, president of YVR for Kids.