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Metro Vancouver Transit Police squad welcomes its newest four-legged member

Meet Norquay, a three-year-old Labrador retriever cross, who has joined the dog team to assist with the mental health of Transit Police officers and civilian staff.
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AFD Norquay and his handler, Judy.

A day in the life of Accredited Facility Dog (AFD) Norquay doesn't seem all that different from the typical working day of many humans.

When he wakes up in the morning, the Labrador retriever cross has to get ready for his 8-to-4 job. After a healthy portion of kibble for breakfast, the Burnaby resident puts on his work clothes (a bright blue vest that reads PADS Accredited Facility Dog), and heads to work with Metro Vancouver Transit Police in New Westminster with his handler, Judy Parker.

His morning starts off with friendly greetings as he visits everyone in the office.

Afterwards, Norquay can be seen heading back to his cubicle, where he hangs out and spreads cheer with his presence.

Norquay started his official career in the squad on Dec. 12, after he successfully completed the AFD training program. He provides physical, social and emotional support to all employees at the office, including transit police officers and civilian staff.

But he was always destined to have a career in the police force — Norquay was bred, raised and trained by PADS (Pacific Assistance Dog Society).

He possesses a high level of resilience, which makes him well cut out for this role, his handler said.

Police officers, dispatchers and other staff often face situations that can leave them at an increased risk of stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma. Norquay is trained to assist, bringing his calming presence and AFD training to help employees decompress after a stressful event. 

While Norquay's role is often confused with that of a therapy dog, Parker and Const. Amanda Steed, transit police media relations officer, note that his job is different. 

For one, Accredited Facility Dogs undergo a strict training program for fitness and temperament. In fact, as opposed to therapy dogs, AFDs are bred solely to develop the high level of resilience demanded by the job.

Norquay's two-legged colleagues described him as a highly ethical worker and a joy to be around.

"When the cape is on, he knows he is working," Parker said. "But when the cape is off, he loves running around like other dogs."

But unlike many humans, Norquay knows how to strike a work-life balance — bringing a professional demeanour to the job but relaxing once his shift is over, going for walks and hikes, and playing his favourite game, "tug." (His human colleagues note that he will "sometimes" play tug with them on the job.)

Some of his favourite things include hunting for treats, running, napping, breakfast and dinner (and every snack in between). 

Norquay is highly empathetic and can sense when someone is upset. When that happens, he'll respond by spending more time providing company than usual with that person.

His colleagues at the office find him a comforting presence and love to see him pacing the halls or to hear his collar jingling. "Even though he doesn't have to say anything to you, he's already touched your heart," Steed said.

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