Some good news from the border
I have always had dogs in my home. Ever since I was a young child I have been around dogs and each dog came and went leaving their little paw prints on the heart of our family. I remember Buck, our family’s Golden Retriever, Shotgun and Caliber were two black labs I hunted with and there were some bad ones in there too that drove me crazy, crapped on my carpet and never made it to my “man’s best friend” list.
I never understood the importance or the benefit of having a dog around until I lost my search and rescue partner. The day that Reno died was one of the darkest in my life and my insightful wife immediately began looking for a new companion for me. When “Freedom” came along, I was not that sure that I was ready for a new K9 friend so I did not really make great attempts at spending time with the new family member. After a few months, when struggling with serious depression, Freedom came up to me and just sat there, head on my lap.
It began a new time for me. Just watching television and resting my hand on this creature’s head suddenly had me calmed down! It was like magic!
It wasn’t too long before I ran into an amazing group called First Responder Therapy Dogs. I was deployed, far from home and certainly far from Freedom. These folks showed up with a team of dogs that changed the emotional and mental landscape of the situation.
There is a wide-range of first responders including firefighters, paramedics, EMS, dispatchers, search and rescue and law enforcement answering the call to help and protect all over this country. As most of you know, being on the frontlines can be physically and mentally challenging, and these everyday heroes often suffer from mental health challenges.
First Responder Therapy Dogs leads the way in addressing the mental health needs of first responders by providing emotional support using therapy dogs. This organization provides this free service to as many first responders in as many locations across the country as possible.
It sounds kind of ridiculous, but research shows that therapy dog services positively impact mental health issues. The use of therapy dogs has demonstrated the following outcomes:
Reduce stress and anxiety
Lower blood pressure and slower breathing
Improve overall mood elevation and mental state
Increase productivity due to better mood and mental state
So why am I writing about this today? Well, it is almost Reno’s birthday which is always a tough time for me, but the real reason is because our friends in El Paso, Texas just welcomed their first support K9 promote resiliency among Border Patrol agents! I am so happy to think that these hard working and overwhelmed men and women will have this new friend that will (and I guarantee this) sense stress and be there without judgement, without speaking, without bad advice or empty words.
It turns out that this is part of a national effort by Border Patrol and not just limited to the folks in El Paso. Blitzen, a 6-month-old black Labrador will be hanging with the agents and responding to all types of critical incidents throughout the El Paso Sector working in harmony with the Family Support Unit. You can see Blitzen playing with the agents on FaceBook by CLICKING HERE.
Border Patrol chaplains and peer support members will serve as the new support canine handlers, providing emotional care while maintaining confidentiality.
Like I said, I could not be happier to know that these agents will begin to experience what I learned years ago and I pray that this program not only continues but is expanded. I am glad that El Paso was chosen as a part of this knowing how difficult things have been in that sector for so long.
Some good news from the border for a change.