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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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”.
Bedfordshire Wellbeing Dogs
Bedfordshire Police have a number of Wellbeing Dogs, who all work at Luton Airport. These dogs visit officers and staff with their handlers, to assist with their wellbeing, when they are not working at the airport.
Find out more about our Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs