News / Winnipeg

An athlete's best friend: Therapy dogs visit Canada Games

Every evening from Monday onward, volunteers and their four-legged friends will be at the Athletes’ Village at the University of Manitoba.

Team Manitoba's Shaye Kemball with St. John Ambulance therapy dog Hank.

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Jade Markus/Metro

Team Manitoba's Shaye Kemball with St. John Ambulance therapy dog Hank.

For the first time ever, the Canada Summer Games is introducing therapy dogs to help athletes calm their pre-game jitters.

Every evening from Monday onward, volunteers and their four-legged friends will be at the Athletes’ Village at the University of Manitoba.

The dogs were brought in from St. John Ambulance to give athletes an opportunity to relax away from intense competition, said Canada Summer Games Host Society President and CEO Jeff Hnatiuk.

“Most of them are in a strange city, they’re in a strange environment… they’ve very, very intense in their competitions, so it gives them a stress-free mental break from the rigors of their training.”

Shaye Kemball, who plays softball on Team Manitoba, particularly enjoyed the company of therapy dog Hank.   

“They are trained dogs, and they’re very relaxing. I sat down and he just melted into my arms. I kind of loved it right away,” Kemball said.

She’s experiencing an element of nervousness, but is also excited to be representing the province next week.

“We’ve been preparing for such a long time, so once we step onto the field it will kind of be a big relief.”  

The dogs also frequent nursing homes and schools, and undergo obedience training to prepare for the visits.

“For an event like this we also have them go through a child test, so we know they read children in a friendly way too,” said volunteer Claire Mackley, who volunteers with her dog, Tanner.  

She added that the dogs also act as a social lubricant.

“You’re with strangers, but all of a sudden you’ve got things in common. So its absolutely wonderful, especially when you know you’ve got a dog that is really safe and really calm. “

The Canada Summer Games run until August 12.

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