Canine characters help Gladstone police de-stress
BOOSTING morale and managing mental health is the role of three dogs who have been visiting Gladstone Police Station weekly for the past year.
Molly, a 10 year-old yellow labrador; seven-and-a-half-year-old Boots, an Italian mastiff cross kelpie; and Jill, a six-and-a-half year-old rottweiler cross labrador put smiles on officers’ faces every time they visit.
Redefine Canine owner Nicole Donker said the pet therapy dogs helped police manage their gruelling days and take their mind off often confronting situations.
Each dog has its own character.
“The whole purpose of the program was due to everyone in the station having a very taxing job, the dogs bring a little bit of happiness and morale to the station,” she said.
“Also to bring a bit of stress relief after some of the distressing situations they go to.
“Plus networking, to give the officers a chance to talk about things other than work, and give them a bit of a break from the intensity.”
When the dogs are harnessed up and dressed with their bandannas, Mrs Donker said they knew they are going to work.
“The officers love it, they think it’s the best part of their day, or week,” Mrs Donker said.
“It’s the morale and metal health support that the dogs provide that is so valuable,” Cnst Mick Donker said.
“Policing is a very stressful job and there is a natural risk involved daily, so having some stress taken off you, while at the office, is a great thing.
“I’ve had emails from all around the station asking me to pass on to Nicole their thanks.
“The dogs went into the comms room after someone had taken a particularly bad triple-0 call and they changed the whole dynamic of the situation and lifted everyone’s morale, which was great.”
Acting Inspector Shaune English said the dogs had become a valuable therapy resource.
“When I come down the stairs, the smiles on people’s faces when they see the dogs is great,” he said.
“We have also got a lot of young police who move around early on in their careers and can’t have pets, so this is another avenue for them to de-stress.”
When Mrs Donker’s husband, Constable Mick Donker, suggested the program to Gladstone Police Station officer in charge Jamie Goodwin, he got permission to launch the trial, which has been a rousing success.
“I said it’s good for my mental health having the dogs at home, what’s the possibility of them coming into the station?” Cnst Donker said.
Mrs Donker, who has spent years studying and getting practical training with therapy dogs, said a dog must have certain qualities to work in therapy.
“The dog needs to have the right temperament and the desire to be around people to work well,” she said.
“These dogs are super friendly, they are well behaved and trained, they have good temperaments and love going up to people and sitting with them and getting pats and cuddles, which is exactly what they need to be good pet therapy dogs.
“The dogs love the attention, they get an outing where they get stimulation, which is great for dogs brains, to keep them happy and healthy.”
If you have a problem dog, or one with bad habits or that can’t relate to people, call Nicole on 0422 570 506 or visit www.redefinecanine.com.au.