Lo­cal ca­nine cer­ti­fied for­cri­sis re­sponse

The Colonial - - FRONT PAGE - By M. English

21st Cen­tury Me­dia News

Ser­vice

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 ca­nine.cri­sis­re­sponse@na­tion­alaacr.org or de­bra.grooms@ver­i­zon.net.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of sub­jects

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.

Photo cour­tesy of sub­jects

P.J. Lorenz, one of the Spring Mill Fire Com­pany ju­nior mem­bers who vol­un­teered at the cri­sis re­sponse work­shop on the Schuylkill, pets Rayo.

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