Say ‘Hello’ to the OK9 Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs and their handlers.
These dogs are all members of the National OK9 Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dog Network and are able to attend the aftermath of a major incident to support those affected by trauma. They also get the opportunity to attend national events and to support our Wellbeing Outreach Service.
Their handlers are Peer Supporter or Mental Health First Aiders, their role is to engage with, and help individuals understand more about mental health issues. They give advice on self-care, recognising the signs of struggle, and supporting others. The handlers play a crucial role in breaking down barriers and reducing stigma, they help create an environment where people are happy to talk. The training enables them to to listen effectively in a supportive way and to ‘sign post’ to available help.
Holly’s handler is PC Paul Roe has 28 years service with 11 years in the British Transport Police before transferring to Cambridgeshire Police in 2015. Paul was diagnosed with PTSD three years ago after dealing with trauma in his role including assaults and four major train crashes. Paul became involved in Wellbeing to help others, he gives regular presentations in the force about PTSD and Mental health in the policing. Paul is qualified in Mental Health First Aid, Peer Support and Suicide Prevention.
PC Jane Tetlow is Harley’s handler, she joined Cheshire in 1997. Jane has worked on section and as a community officer, she has a passion for partnership working and school policing. Jane is thrilled to be Harleys handler and proud to be assisting officers and staff with their wellbeing, whilst also having the opportunity to continue to work with schools. She is an advocate of Cheshire Police’s Wellbeing Steering Group and a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Ally.
Bella’s owner is Amanda Buck, Centre Manager of Breckon Hill Community Centre a small locally run Charity which responds to community needs. Amanda delivers a crisis intervention programme which predominantly focusses on the mental health and wellbeing of all her community members. She and Bella are volunteering with the OK9 Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dog project.
Hilary Brown, Sol’s owner said: “I was so pleased to hear of this national initiative of having wellbeing dogs. When asked to get involved I said yes straight away as the pressure on officers and staff is immense and I hope that Sol can help. I find that my pets provide me with a lot of emotional support at times. He passed his assessment with flying colours.”
Hilary also volunteers for Blue Cross as an educational speaker and Sol is a Blue Cross education dog too.
Darcy’s owner PC Cathy Veale works within the Health and Wellbeing Team for the Devon, Cornwall and Dorset Police Alliance.
Cathy said: “Darcy really improved my health and wellbeing and is now helping to support my colleagues. This roles has given me the opportunity to combine my love of dogs and dog training with my passion for breaking down mental health stigma, supporting others and showing how raising your hand for help is a strength.”
Hogan’s handler is PC Sandra Rigby an Operational Officer based in Weymouth. Sandra also takes on the additional roles of Dorset Police Federation Wellbeing Lead, Negotiator and Peer Supporter. Sandra said: “Hogan and I love to meet colleagues, individually or in groups, in the work environment or outside for a walk or a run.”
Ben’s handler Claire has worked for Durham Police for over 15 years. She has had Ben from a puppy and has trained him in his really important role. Claire said “I am happy to be venturing into this new role with Ben and am looking forward to finding out what we can both learn and achieve. Dogs like Ben can really help to support people’s mental health and wellbeing in so many ways, and I want to make that part of our Durham Difference.”
Reggie also lives with Claire since he was 2 years old; he started out life training to be a search dog for Durham Police before it was decided he would make a fabulous wellbeing dog. Claire said:” Reggie lives with PD Ben at home and they make a great team together, having two wellbeing dogs in our force now means we can visit more stations without the dogs getting over worked or too tired. We love doing our wellbeing visits it is always nice to see people happy to see us and open to talk.”
Mandy Chapman is a retired Met Police Dog Handler who works as a volunteer with Essex Police and has adopted Baloo. Together they visit officers and staff to spread smiles, show support following traumatic incidents and visit schools and community groups. Baloo is the mascot for the Essex Police Volunteer Police Cadets and attends their events.
Daisy lives on the Isle of White with her handler who is a Police Chaplain. Whether its an early shift briefing, late evening visit or quiet one to one, she knows she is guaranteed a biscuit treat and lots of attention, whilst giving whoever she meets the chance to switch off from the pressure of their work.
Merlin’s handler is Alex Thompson a Wellbeing Support Caseworker (Registered Occupational Therapist). Before working for Hampshire Constabulary, Alex was an Occupational Therapist working within Mental Health Services in the NHS.
Alex said: “I got involved with the Wellbeing Dog project due to my own love of dogs and seeing first-hand the effects and ability to be a conversation starter with even the most unwell of individuals when I worked in hospitals. I have two dogs, but Merlin has the most wonderful nature and a love for humans that makes me smile everyday – I hope to share this happiness and those smiles with others by allowing everyone to meet him and hear his story.”
Balto is handled by Sandra Heathcote, a retired Police Officer who now spends her time between Cornwall and East Yorkshire. They volunteer with the charity Canine Concerns, visiting various establishments including schools and psychiatric hospitals. Balto is Humberside’s second Wellbeing Dog and he even has his own Facebook page baltothepetsastherapyhusky
PC Ian Sweeney is Cindy’s handler. Ian also handles Logan a general purpose police dog. Both Ian and Logan won the North East Region Award for Bravery after they we both shot whilst detaining an armed suspect in 2019.
Ian adores animals in particular dogs, who never have a bad day. They are always pleased to see you and lift your spirits in every sense. They have incredible healing powers and have assisted Ian many times through this demanding role as a Police Officer.
Eze’s handler is Donna Lawton who has worked for Nottinghamshire Police in various roles for 25 years and is an ex police dog handler. She loves dogs having had many both through work and as pets so is very experienced. She has trained in dog behaviour with a keen interest in animal welfare.
Donna has four dogs, two German Shepherds, a Springer Spaniel and now Eze. Both German Shepherds and Eze were adopted from the RSPCA having been severely mistreated. Coleby the Springer Spaniel is an ex police explosives search dog.
Donna is a Peer to peer supporter, qualified Level 5 coach and Hostage and Crisis Negotiator.
Tara’s owner Belinda Mason is a Sergeant in the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Tara is training to be a PTSD assistance dog for Belinda and also provides emotional support to her colleagues in the Police Service. Tara attends post-incident debriefs and peer support meetings and she accompanies Belinda to work every day. Tara can be tasked to attend training sessions, public events and even police interviews. She is excellent at starting the conversation around trauma and mental health in the workplace and shows that disability and trauma can be managed and supported in simple and innovative ways. Tara lives by the beach and loves nothing more than a good role in the sand after long day’s work.
Maui’s handler, Jo, is a DCI on West Sussex Division. When Maui went out for his first walks, Jo noticed that people no longer looked down at the ground when walking by, they stopped for conversation, they smiled and would give Maui a good fuss – which he loved! Maui started visiting Sussex HQ and had the same effect, he created a lot of smiles to those working on site during the Covid pandemic and they often said that seeing him had “made their day”. Jo really noticed the positive difference Maui made to those he met and being passionate about wellbeing decided to make it their mission to support more officers and staff through difficult times across Sussex by joining OK9.
Milo’s handler is Chief Inspector Di Lewis, who is passionate about the welfare of her staff, she chairs the mental health working group for Surrey and Sussex Police. Together they support and make a difference to the wellbeing of officers and staff across the force.
Luther’s handler is Jessica Issacs a Senior Healthcare Professional working in Custody. She said: “Mental health and wellbeing has always been a deep rooted passion of mine, and seeing the smiles when Luther comes in to custody or other departments is absolutely amazing. He creates a welcome distraction for detainees and boosts team morale for the staff.”
Rocky’s handler is Custody Inspector Jason Wilson – passionate about custody and improving facilities for staff and detainees – introducing Rocky as a custody doggo was the start of an ongoing journey to introduce new and innovative ideas into custody in order for staff to be better equipped to deal with the wide ranging demands of the role.
PC Daren Buck is Stanley’s handler, he is a PC on East Sussex Division. Daren is a mental health first aider and is passionate about the wellbeing of the staff in Sussex, as he has suffered from mental health issues himself. Darren said: “Sometimes it’s difficult to talk about things, Stanley creates a distraction allowing people to open up and talk about their issues.”
Carter and Winnie are both handled by Animal Welfare Officer, Kaylee Noble with the support of Temp Inspector Andrew Patterson and Yard Manager (Dog & Mounted) Katrina Edmonds-Daniel.
Kaylee said: “Seeing the difference the dogs make to people’s Wellbeing is extraordinary. I feel we are only just touching the surface of what these dogs are capable of. I am a wellbeing dog handler, wanting to make a difference to the force and the wider community.”
Jacky Madden, Handler and Thames Valley Police Welfare Officer said: “In my role as welfare officer, I provide help and support to officers and staff during difficult and stressful times, it is a rewarding role and one in which I feel privileged to do. Henley has certainly enhanced the welfare officer role within TVP; it is a wonderful addition to what we can offer. I am proud to be a welfare officer and to visit people with Henley and to have Henley in my life certainly helps with my own wellbeing and my physical and mental wellness.”
PC Michael Sheather from the Metropolitan Police Dog Support Unit is Dexter’s handler. Together they have completed nearly 150 wellbeing tasks and have signposted 18 officers who needed support with their mental health.
Mike said: “I have been a Police officer for 28 years, during this time I have experienced challenges to my own mental fitness, caused by incidents/events that took place in and out of work. These experiences are what drives me to help others”.
Truffles handler is Insp Paul Van Veen who has 25 years’ service, 14 of which was as a general purpose dog handler. Paul has had Truffles from an 8 week old puppy and along with her mum, Emma (also a serving officer) they have cuddled her endlessly to prepare her for this really important role. Paul became involved in wellbeing after seeing first-hand the effects mental health has on people and worked hard to develop the proposal and raise the money to fund Truffles. Paul also has an RSPCA rescue German Shepherd called Karma, who is Truffles best doggy friend. Paul is qualified in Mental Health First Aid, Peer Support and Suicide Prevention trained.
Olive was adopted by Mark in August 2020 from a Northamptonshire based animal rescue charity after being seized by the Police under the Animal Welfare Act.
She hasn’t let her difficult past stand in her way and is now loving life and enjoying being the first wellbeing dog for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS). Olive loves the attention and takes it all in her stride.
Her calm temperament, love of people and her aptitude to sense people’s emotions has meant that she is a natural in the role and is a welcome addition to the wellbeing team within NFRS.
Find out more about our Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs