When a crisis occurs, 9-1-1 telecommunicators are at the ready to answer the call. These unsung heroes work behind-the-scenes, offering a calm voice and professional help to individuals who are upset, stressed and in need. Mark E. Reavis, the Nash County 911 Program Manager, has been a part of the 9-1-1 industry for the past 24 years and he knows the amount of stress that these dispatchers live with; it was this firsthand knowledge which inspired him to create a new canine therapy program which strives to bring comfort and joy to these hard-working professionals.
Reavis reached out to Tosha Aldridge, an Alliance of Therapy Dogs tester/observer, for guidance in the creation of the “Therapy Dogs in 9-1-1, Making A Positive Difference” program. Reavis believes that the program is the first of its kind in the state of North Carolina and given the program’s initial success, he hopes to see 9-1-1 centers in other areas adopt the program for their own dispatch professionals. In fact, in the coming weeks he will be speaking to state officials about the benefits of therapy dogs in 9-1-1 centers and he is hopeful that the dialogue will inspire other agencies to adopt the program.
Therapy dogs are brought to the 9-1-1 center after critical incidents, such as fatal accidents or officer involved shootings. According to Reavis, the dogs are able to bring a smile to the faces of the telecommunicator professionals. The dogs don’t have special duties to perform at the centers – the simply need to show up and offer their calm presence, which naturally relieves stress and lightens the mood.
Reavis commented on the benefit of having dogs spend time at the Nash County 9-1-1 center:
“These dogs are able to provide comfort to our unsung heroes. Our 911 professionals work under tremendously stressful situations and we have discovered the huge benefits of having these dogs deployed during very busy times. Our staff is much more productive and proficient when they are happy. These dogs bring out nothing but happiness.”
Currently, Reavis’ own dog, a mixed breed named “Hero,” (named for the heroes who Reavis works with) and Aldridge’s pit bull, “Lily,” are the primary canines who spend time at the 9-1-1 center. More therapy dog teams are wanted – according to the Rocky Mount Telegram, people interested in training their dogs to become a therapy dog can reach Aldridge at 252-908-4850 to learn more.
Reavis and Aldridge are in the process of starting up a therapy dog program for the Middlesex Children’s Home – hoping to spread more canine cheer and smiles to those in need.
Learn more about the Alliance of Therapy Dogs here.
Find the Nash County Division of 9-1-1 Communications on Facebook here.