Wellbeing and trauma therapy dog joins Welsh Ambulance Service in UK first

wellbeing dog
Maggie Davies

Border collie Dill is also an operational search and rescue dog with SARDA South Wales, and she is a member of Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team.

Sky News reports that the Welsh Ambulance Service has recruited its first wellbeing and trauma therapy dog in a UK first.

Border collie Dill is part of the Oscar Kilo 9 (OK9) scheme – which was set up by the National Police Wellbeing Service to allow animals to accompany people to work as part of help with their overall mental health.

The national service launched in 2019 and looks to build on local police wellbeing dog services to make them available to all forces who wish to take part. Dill has passed the assessments set by OK9 and hit all the criteria to become a wellbeing and trauma therapy dog for the Trust.

Her handler Katie McPheat-Collins, service manager for the emergency medical services across Central Wales, said: “For the past six years, Dill has been, and still is, an operational search and rescue dog with SARDA South Wales, and she is a member of Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team.

“However, her exceedingly gentle, calm nature and affinity to people lead to the recent assessment and subsequent role within the Trust.” Dill’s integration is part of a broader programme to improve the health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers.

Katie added: “We currently have police dogs affiliated to OK9, who visit stations and sites across South and North Wales, but there was a gap throughout the Central region.

“With Dill, we are able to focus on Central Wales, where crews especially from the smaller satellite stations may not be on base for a number of hours, and therefore not have the shared benefit of a canine visit.

“Dill’s support can be in the form of station visits to help with morale and stress, a presence during debriefs, or community engagement especially when connecting with young, elderly or vulnerable audiences.”

Sgt Garry Botterill, Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dog Project Lead with the National Police Wellbeing Service, said: “The OK9 scheme has proved to be extremely popular within the Police and Fire Service, and the number of Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs has grown to over 175 in the last 18 months.

“We are delighted to welcome the Welsh Ambulance Service into the scheme, so that they can enjoy the many benefits of this structured, proven and effective wellbeing initiative.

“All emergency services deal with traumatic events and highly stressful situations.

“The wellbeing dogs help to bring some light relief to colleagues, especially following difficult incidents.

“I would like to thank Katie, Dill and the Welsh Ambulance Service for being the first in the ambulance service to pilot this scheme and wish them every success.”

(Story source: Sky News)

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