Local canine certified forcrisis response
21st Century Media News
Debra Jordan and pet Rayo, a registered therapy dog, have been members of Spring Mill Fire Company’s dive team for the past two years. But the Galgo Espanol or Spanish greyhound recently added a second set of credentials to his dossier when he was certified as a crisis response dog. Rayo’s résumé expanded following a daylong workshop on the Schuylkill with instructors from National Animal Assisted Crisis Response and members of Whitemarshbased SMFC.
A certified animal-assisted therapist, Jordan has been volunteering with organizations that rescue and foster abused canines since the late 1990s. During the past five years alone, the Conshohocken woman has fostered some 60 Italian Greyhounds. The five dogs she currently owns — Rayo and fellow Galgo Espanol Candela, Italian Greyhounds Leah and Cashew and Silky Terrier Flirt — are all registered therapy dogs. Her beloved Jamie, a 12-year-old greyhound that passed away this summer, was her first crisis team partner.
“Crisis response animals are trained to assist during all kinds of emergencies and disasters — everything from hurricanes and tornadoes, mudslides like the ones they’ve been having in California, to school shootings,” Jordan says. “The shock people feel in these situations, the stress levels … it’s hard to describe just how incredibly soothing these animals can be when they’re present and people start petting them or talking to them, although crisis response is a lot more complicated than simply showing up and saying, ‘Here’s my dog; pet him and you’ll feel better.’
“Today, it just seems like there’s one crisis after another. So many people who need help. Honestly, with everything you see in the news today, the need is greater than ever. My hope is that people become aware that crisis response teams
like Rayo and I exist and invite us to help out. That’s the thing, though. We’re not selfdeployed. We can only go out when asked.”
Rayo’s certification was overseen and sanctioned by NAACR, but Jordan calls SMFC dive team’s involvement “invaluable.”
“The people at the firehouse were amazing,” she continues. “Lt. Ken Souder from the Spring Mill Dive Team and Chief Chris Heleniak were so helpful in setting this up … and some of the young firefighters who participated in role plays. This exposed Rayo to yet another potentially scary situation he could encounter as a working crisis response animal. You had fire trucks, all the different smells — the diesel smell— all the gear, the close quarters you have on a boat … not to mention being in and out of the water all day. It added lots of different elements to his training.”
Rayo previously showed his mettle during a mass terrorism drill at Tradition Field in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., last winter.
“National ran that, too,” Jordan says. “Rayo and I flew intoWest Palm Beach, and by the end of the training, we’d been on four planes, a bus, a shuttle, a tram and a peoplemover. Rayo is such a beau- tiful, special dog. I’ve seen what a great therapy dog he is — being a therapy dog is a requirement, the first step before an animal can become a crisis response dog— but he’s doing great with this, too. After their formal training, you just start taking them places so they’re used to all kinds of situations and surroundings, and he’s been wonderful.
“I’m also a member of the Montgomery County Critical Incident Stress Management Team, so I started taking Rayo to those CISM meetings as well. I’ve belonged to Spring Mill Fire Company for about two years. They asked us to join when Jamie was with me. Now, it’s Rayo and me. We’re considered part of their dive and rescue team … part of their crisis response team.”
Rayo traveled thousands of miles to join the Whitemarsh first responders. Jordan adopted him and Candela, a female Galgo Espanol, from a no- kill animal shelter in Spain. Scooby Medina in Medina del Campo is considered Spain’s largest animal shelter.
“Scooby is well-known outside of Spain for the work they do … especially with Galgos,” Jordan says. “But they also take in cats, donkeys, all kinds of animals. With the Galgos, they’re a common hunting [breed], and they’re bred constantly, so there’s a real over-abundance. Then, when hunting season is over, people destroy them … frequently by hanging them from trees by the side of the road or turning them loose in the countryside. They’re wonderful dogs … typically not as big as our greyhounds and, unlike ours, they can have either long or short hair.”
Over the years, the Elkins Park native has also bred and shown Rhodesian Ridgebacks and poodles. She operated her own grooming business in Elkins Park before joining the staff at The Proud Pooch on Butler Pike in Whitemarsh in the mid-1980s.
Additional information is available at www.crisisresponsecanines.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Spring Mill Fire Company Dive Team’s Lt. Ken Souder with Rayo and visiting out-oftown dogs participate in NAACR’s recent crisis response workshop.
P.J. Lorenz, one of the Spring Mill Fire Company junior members who volunteered at the crisis response workshop on the Schuylkill, pets Rayo.