An RCMP puppy named Elf is bringing cheer to sick children in hospitals for the holiday season. The 10-week-old German Shepherd Dog is visiting kids throughout the province of Saskatchewan in Canada along with K9 police officers and their K9 partners as part of a new initiative.
Elf's first stop was a rehabilitation centre in Regina, where the childen who met Elf were extremely happy to see the puppy. "The reaction from the kids has been amazing, from absolute joy, elatement," said RCMP Cpl. Sean Cleary. Cleary came up with the idea for the program after wanting to do something to make the sick kids feel a little bit better. "We're trying to give them the feeling of being back at home. Animals, especially puppies, just bring smiles on people's faces," said Cleary. "It's just a little bit of home in the hospital environment."
Brandon Martin-Naqui meets Elf. Photo: Alyssa McDonald, Metro Regina
RCMP Cpl. Sean Cleary was inspired to do something after he realized how fortunate he is that he has two healthy girls in his family (ages 2 and 10-weeks-old). When he shared his idea he gained support from the entire membership of the Canadian Police Canine Association and K9 handlers from across the provice lined up to help him. He also got 120 cute stuffed dogs that looks like Elf at cost from the RCMP Canadian Heritage centre with support from the Canadian Police K-9 Association.
120 will be enough so that every child in hospital in Saskatchewan will get one. Cleary said the toy is something for the kids to cuddle with and hold when "they're having a bit of a tougher time."
Logan Tonge holds Elf at a rehabilation centre in Regina. Photo: Canadian Press
Cleary said their visits so far have been "really nice" not only for the kids but the parents as well. "They're tired, they're stressed out ... as any parent would be. So it's a little of a relief for them, too, not only to see their kids happy, but ... it's a little bit of a break for them as well," said Cleary.
Krista Smith is parent to eight-year-old Logan, who has athetoid cerebral palsy. They visit the centre regularly for therapy and were delighted to encounter Elf on their latest visit. Elf sat on Logan's lap and licked him. And Logan smiled and petted Elf in return. "I think it definitely made the day for the kids because they're used to coming, but it was something out of the ordinary and it kind of surprised them and it was exciting," Smith told MetroNews.
"My goal, if we're completely successful, is for the hour that we're there we give the kids some smiles and give them the opportunity to forget they're in hospital," Cleary told CBC's Morning Edition. The K9 police officers hope that the program will move beyond Saskatchewan and expand to other provinces in Canada next year to spread even more joy.
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