British Columbia Overdose Crisis: Meet the Life Saving Hero Dog


Vancouver –

When Trey Helten received a puppy as a gift, he had no idea that his new four-legged friend, Zelda, would eventually learn how to help save lives.

“He’s a three-year-old pitbull-mastiff cross and a heroine,” Helten said.

Helten runs the Overdose Prevention Society, a supervised injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that monitors drug users. Zelda has been a regular in the company since she was a puppy.

“She mostly keeps people under control. When there is fighting, she prevents it from happening, she barks, makes her presence known, “Helten said.

Zelda is now three years old and has learned to keep an eye on people. Growing up in the center, she watched Helten walk around and check on people who use drugs at the tables.

Recently she started doing it on her own.

Last week, security cameras captured her pushing a man who was not moving. Getting no response, she slapped him on the back again until she saw movement.

“I had to check the CCTV footage closely. It was quite shocking, heartwarming, ”Helten said. “She will walk in circles and check to see if anyone is unconscious.” Sometimes she likes to go straight to the face – they’ll have a cold, wet dog nose straight to the face if they don’t respond.

And if there is a problem, Zelda will let it be known. Helten says she’s already spotted someone behind her van who was overdosing.

“She started alerting the staff by barking and didn’t stop until someone went back over there and checked and this person would probably have died without the dog, 100%,” he said. .

Customers who came to OPS have now forged a strong bond with Zelda. One link in particular saved lives, according to Helten.

“One day (the client) was feeling suicidal and Zelda cuddled up to him and he said that without it he would have done something stupid,” Helten said, tears in his eyes.

Figures released this week show that the overdose crisis in British Columbia shows no signs of abating. The latest update from the province’s Chief Coroner reports 184 deaths in July, making it BC’s second deadliest month in the years-long crisis.

About Kristina McManus

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