FANNIN COUNTY, TX– Whether you are an LEO, firefighter, EMS, dispatcher, corrections officer or support staff, you have felt the stress that comes with working in and around the first responder field.
The stigma of asking for help by a first responder is real! The fear of losing your job because you ask for help is real! The fear of admitting to yourself you need help is real!
We have all seen someone who asked for help and was thrown under the proverbial bus. Command Staff sometimes forgets to lead by example.
This needs to stop! We are human; we have feelings; we have limits; we all make mistakes; we are a family, and we need to start taking care of each other.
It is time to admit that it’s not just others who need us, even when they don’t act like it. We need each other to continue to come to work and be the best they can. We need each other to concentrate on being present at work, at home, at church or in the game.
That is where a simple but powerful tool can be used. That tool is a dog. Yes, a dog.
No, I’m not talking about a narcotics K9 or even an explosives K9. I’m talking about a well-trained, environmentally sound, healthy, friendly dog. This dog is more commonly called a Therapy Dog.
A Therapy Dog can be used after a dangerous call has been dealt with, after an event involving a death, an Officer involved shooting, or maybe for an Officer having personal problems. It can be a five minute visit, getting coffee in between calls, or it can be an appointment on a day off.
A Therapy Dog can also be used for community related events such as Coffee with a Cop, natural disaster recovery, a distraught special needs child at school, etc. Therapy Dogs can be promoted as a benefit to employees and on social media. I see agencies that have social media pages just for their dogs. Therapy Dogs can be used in court for a nervous person or child who must testify, child advocacy centers, victim interviewing etc.
The Therapy Dog can be paired with a peer support member, who can accomplish things that can prevent supervision from having to get involved. For example, tardiness, short tempered behavior, problems paying bills and even suicide. This can happen because the individual feels comfortable talking about the problems they are having and asking for help. We as a Thin (Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Silver) Line Community need to prevent the problem that will affect others, if we can.
Like most people that strive to do better, we try to gravitate towards those we aspire to be like. I’m sure you have noticed most first responders hang out with other first responders.
First Responders are typically described as people who have inner strength, are powerful and intelligent, as well as genuine. Dogs are very similar to this in description.
The unique way dogs seem to “know” what we need is uncanny. It could be that they are just present in the room or they will insist on being pet. Humans have always gravitated towards dogs not just because of how they could help us, but for the comfort and protection they give us.
Don’t let the soft hair and floppy ears fool you: When someone is feeling the stress of life and/or work, a dog provides some comfort to the person, as well as a unique way of leaning on someone who won’t give your secrets away.
Everyone knows that recruitment is down across the nation. Did you know that the suicide rate in Law Enforcement and fire is higher than line of duty deaths? Along with that, most agencies have command staffs that can’t afford the amount of personnel needed to keep up with today’s threat.
In general, our budgets are not getting bigger. Why not do what we can to prevent losing another employee, to cover overtime for a person calling in sick, to pay for even more recruits in the latest academy, if we can even get them to apply? And most of all, why not do what we can to prevent another suicide?
We need to help each other, not tear each other down!
If not you than who?
Don’t just show you care when it is too late to tell them to their face.
Tell them and show them NOW!
If dogs are not your thing, then find a release and invite those who care about you to join in. Find something that helps you feel relief: Music, dance, cooking, faith, drawing, hiking, etc. Reach out and ask for help, you may be the example that someone else needs to do the same.
Find a way to find yourself!
LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and veterans called LET Unity. We reinvest the proceeds into sharing untold stories of those patriotic Americans. Click to check it out.
If you want to learn more or would like to help get a dog in your agency or foster a dog that will end up with a first responder agency or organization, examples of Therapy Dog Policies, a college dissertation on how Therapy Dogs help investigators get their information, reach out to us. We would love to help!
K9 Deputy Janeen Baggette
Fannin Co Sheriff’s Department
Founder/Chairman K9’s For Freedom & Independence
K9’s For Freedom & Independence
PO Box 136 Collinsville, TX 76233
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