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911 dispatchers deal with stress with a little help from dogs

Jacob Smith • Dec 8, 2017 at 2:07 PM

Many 911 dispatchers answer hundreds of calls for emergencies every day.

Most of those calls are just routine, but some are from people who call to report a suicide, shots fired or violent crimes. Hearing about these events can take its toll.

“A lot of people don’t realize that dispatchers themselves can suffer from PTSD,” said Wilson County 911 communications coordinator Teresa Fisher. “We’re lucky here to be such a close group. We comfort each other when something comes across.”

According to Fisher, Wilson County dispatchers don’t have any specific program in place to help out, but they’re able to help each other out when a particularly rough call is answered.

“We’re like a family,” said Fisher. “[Director Karen Moore] has a quiet corner in her office, and if someone needs to take a minute and just be alone, she’ll let them be alone for a little while.”

One group that tries to help with this problem is Canines 4 Christ, a nonprofit Christian organization that brings therapy dogs to cancer centers, grief centers, children’s hospitals, 911 centers and other locations.

“Our goal is to bring love, joy and comfort in the midst of the situation that we’re dealing with for people that need that,” said Canines 4 Christ founder Larry Randolph. We have well [more than] 700 canines throughout the world that have been approved to go out into the community, so it’s an amazing ministry.”

Randolph said the goal of the organization is to relieve stress from those who face stressful situations in their day-to-day life.

“It reaches people in amazing ways. It gives people hope to know that there’s an organization that cares about them in this way and wants to help in this manner,” said Randolph. “They’re usually just so happy to see us. Well, they’re happy to see the dog. The dog is the door opener. Most people love dogs, so of course, they like to play with the dog. We get a warm welcome, and every now and then, we get a pat on our back, too.”

Fisher said Canines 4 Christ representatives have visited them in the past, but they’ve never gotten to the point where they’ve had to call in the organization.

“They’ve come by here, but only on visits,” said Fisher. “We never requested them. We’re a pretty resilient bunch here, and we’ve got each other to lean on, thankfully.”

For more information on Canines 4 Christ, visit k9forchrist.org. 

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