Meet Mabel. She’s the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire Service’s first emotional support dog.
Even as a puppy, Mabel has always had an affinity with people. This exceptionally calm cockapoo goes to work one day a week with her owner, Chief Fire Officer Neil Odin, to the fire service HQ, which is shared with the Hampshire Police and other emergency services.
The fire service has long deployed dogs in a search capacity (you may remember Louis the fire investigation search dog , one of three working in Hampshire and just 17 nationwide). This means that the Hampshire IOW fire service has a lot of knowhow around working dogs. However, the concept of emotional support dogs as a permanent fixture within the fire service generally is very new.
Mabel is interesting on two levels: first, for the job she’s doing currently, as she’s the first emotional support dog in the fire service in Hampshire. Secondly, she’s helping to trial the concept, and refine how the deployment of such emotional support dogs might look within this emergency service. We’ve heard of emotional support dogs in other fire service regions such as Avon and Scotland, but not too many others.
Neil describes how Mabel enhances his own working life, and how he would like to see the role of such emotional support dogs developing in the organisation. He points to the visits of therapy dogs to schools, universities and healthcare environments and how such visits are tied in to better outcomes. He sees no reason why a similar approach shouldn’t work in the fire service.
Having grown up with working dogs, Neil has some interesting observations on how Mabel’s presence subtly changes the atmosphere in a room and brings a softness, which is both welcome and unexpected in a traditionally – and necessarily – hierarchical environment like the Fire Service.
Do you work your dog or dogs or know someone else who does?
If you would be interested in coming on the show, please get in touch with Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 10730 555 500. Kate is particularly keen to interview a sniffer dog!