Building Relationships and Providing Support One Whoof at a Time.

BY LISA WADE MSW, RSW, CST. KRISTA FAGAN & STELLA, POLICE SUPPORT DOG (PSD)


In July of 2020, The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) launched the RNC Support Dog Services, and introduced the first RNC support dog, Stella. Stella is a Portuguese Water Dog (PWD) and was born out of Charbr Kennels in Ontario. Stella has a special connection to social work and in May of this year, I sat down with Stella and her handler, Cst. Krista Fagan, to ask Stella a few questions about social work, building relationships and her role in providing support.



Lisa: Thank you Cst. Fagan and Stella for taking part in this article for Connecting Voices. Stella, I think I can speak for many people when I say that I love your name. Please tell us where you got your name. Who named you and was there any significance to your namesake and the role you provided with the RNC?

Stella: I received my name in honor of Stella Burry. Stella Burry was a pioneering social worker, who made an outstanding contribution to her community and to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). Because I will be working within our community with a vulnerable population, RNC Chief, Joe Boland, felt the name suited me and my role. I absolutely love my name and got my name at 7 weeks old in Ontario when I knew I would be coming to NL.

Lisa: Your name certainly suits you and your role within the RNC. What about building relationships? How important is it for you to build relationships, not only with your potential clients, but the public in general? What have you been doing to build relationships?

Stella: Well my role is sort of like being a social worker and my training is much like going to school. I have learned theory, well my mom sort of does a lot of the theory part and I do the practical training with my mom, she’s just not my driver you know! Since I arrived in NL, I have been socialized in numerous environments. We thought it would be a tough time considering COVID-19 restrictions, however the community has come together in assisting me and getting me used to each and every type of environment.

It’s because of community partnerships that I have excelled, so I am told, in socialization practical training. I’ve visited the St. John’s International Airport and have been behind the scenes there. That was very interesting because I got to see things to which no one else is privy. I’ve met with clients at the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre who have special equipment to aid in their movements and mobility. That is important because building a relationship with someone who uses a wheelchair means I have to look past their wheelchair and all its moving parts. I’ve attended Long Harbour Vale Nickel Processing Plant with heavy equipment running and loud noises. Being calm around loud noises helps me focus on my work, boy oh boy that was interesting to study those loud noises. Each environment has different scents, floor textures and sounds which makes it so important in my training. So when I do get called to duty I will be able to deal with any environmental factors surrounding me. I have also been in everyday places where people get pretty excited to see me, I am pretty cute and adorable you know. My trainer Mike said, from the beginning, that it will be the community training me. Each person I meet and each organization I attend is another exposure to different factors. It’s so important to have these partnerships in a community.

I get a lot of exposure on social media too, detailing where I have been and who I have met. Every time I post a message it brings awareness to these community partners and allows the viewer to be more aware of these valuable resources. The general public may not be aware of the tools and resources we have in the community and that is why it’s so important for me to form these connections, just like a social worker.

At the end of the day, I think we all want to feel good about what we achieve at work and making a difference is what social work is all about, right? As Dr. Seuss said, “to the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world!” I love Dr. Seuss.