In the aftermath of hurricanes, tornadoes, domestic violence and abuse, and terrorist attacks among hundreds of other catastrophes, people need something to put overwhelming emotion in perspective.
Like therapy dogs, members of the National Crisis Response Canine program are gentle, calm, and patient. But to do their high-stress job, these dogs take it several steps further.
To receive their vests, therapy dog teams join a certified canine response team and work together with the animals in a 12-month mentorship program, receiving special training and mastering a unique set of skills.
The dogs become accustomed to loud noises, quick movements, and heavy traffic, and learn to simply not respond. Even sitting still or relaxing at someone’s feet requires practice, but these (all volunteer!) human-canine teams have got that dedication and more.
When disaster strikes, the dogs arrive to calm the nerves of stangers. In Grand Haven, Michigan, 5 new contenders are on their way to certification as they adapt to unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells with their human partners.
As stated by the NCRC team, “The number of people affected psychologically [after a disaster] is many times greater than the number of people sustaining physical harm, damage to their homes, or the loss of possessions.” This is where crisis dogs can shine and put their fantastic temperament, handling, and stress management skills to work.
When Sue Sappok and her crisis response dog, Chief, arrived at a firefighters’ camp in the midst of a blaze in California, the tension was palpable. The men and women were tired, stressed, and aching for their families, but one man soon laid beside the dog and rubbed his belly with a smile.
Says Sappok, “Talking and holding [Chief] just made them feel better,” and the pup’s expert training and company ultimately allowed them to excel at their own jobs.
These four-legged heroes are the epitome of courage, grit, and composure, and we guarantee that to the people they help, those big hearts will never be forgotten.