Wellbeing and Trauma Dog, Buster, lends a paw to support wellbeing in the workplace
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Northamptonshire Police has this month been joined by Buster, a 13-month-old Llasa Apso dog who is putting his best paw forward to do his bit in supporting the mental wellbeing of police officers and staff across the Force.
Buster has joined the Force via a national Oscar Kilo scheme as a Wellbeing and Trauma Dog, whose unique responsibility will be to provide a calming presence amongst officers and staff, working hard to support organisational wellbeing and mental health.
The Oscar Kilo Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs service aims to make wellbeing dogs available to all forces who wish to introduce a dog as part of their wellbeing provision. The service currently has representation from 30 UK Police Forces and Fire and Rescue Services across the country, with Buster joining as the latest new member of the national cohort.
Wellbeing dogs can be introduced after officers have dealt with traumatic or stressful circumstances or as part of a de-briefing process. It is a voluntary role which officers and staff undertake over and above their day job as they personally understand the benefits of having a dog.
To ensure he was appropriate for the role, Buster underwent a period of assessment by one of the Force’s Dog Handlers, PC Steve Thorpe, to ensure he had the right temperament and nature as a wellbeing dog. Needless to say, he passed with flying colours.
Sergeant Sharan Wildman, who has led the programme for introducing wellbeing dogs to Northamptonshire Police, said: “There is plenty of evidence proving the physical benefits of having a dog, however emerging research clearly shows the many ways in which dogs can provide support with mental health, by creating a sense of calm, improving daily emotional and psychological stresses, and helping people to deal with the impact of a traumatic event.
“Police officers and staff do a demanding and sometimes dangerous job, and in many roles are frequently exposed to trauma. Whether it’s call handlers responding to stressful or upsetting calls, or officers investigating serious or traumatic incidents, Buster’s role will be to provide a few minutes of relief for those in need across the workplace.”
After being formally accredited last week, Buster and his owner, Superintendent Emily Vernon, have already conducted several unofficial visits to Northamptonshire Police’s Force Control Room, spending time getting to know the Force’s call handlers.
Buster’s first visit in an official capacity was made earlier this month, where he and Superintendent Vernon visited officers and staff based at Darby House in Wellingborough, taking the time to be formally welcomed by Chief Constable Nick Adderley - with a treat or two, of course.
On his new role, Superintendent Emily Vernon said: “When the Force was on the hunt for potential wellbeing dogs, I was excited to put forward Buster as a contender. He is smart, loves attention, and will do absolutely anything for a treat – he has already found a best friend with the Chief Constable!
“We have already seen the hugely positive impact of Buster’s visits on those around him within the workplace. When he is around, the atmosphere immediately changes, with people keen to interact with him which in turn reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.
“Wellbeing is incredibly important in the workplace and particularly so after the challenges of Covid-19, and it is heart-warming to see the positive impact Buster is already having on everyone around him. I am really pleased to be part of this initiative, and look forward to introducing him to the rest of the organisation.”