Moun­ties go­ing to the dogs, and they couldn’t be hap­pier

Kelowna RCMP try out ther­apy dogs in test pro­gram aimed at re­duc­ing stress

Penticton Herald - - OKANAGAN - By AN­DREA PEA­COCK

The Okana­gan Week­end

Kelowna RCMP of­fi­cers are us­ing ther­apy dogs to de-stress as part of an eight-week trial pro­gram. While sta­tioned in Al­berta in Jan­uary 2015, Kelowna RCMP Supt. Brent Mun­dle wit­nessed the pos­i­tive ef­fect a ther­apy dog could have in the work­place after two of­fi­cers were shot and one was killed. “When the dog was in the build­ing, you could cer­tainly see a change in the at­mos­phere and peo­ple’s be­hav­iours,” said Mun­dle. “You saw a lot more smil­ing and in­ter­ac­tion oc­cur­ring that we weren’t re­ally see­ing in those weeks after the in­ci­dent.”

This later prompted Mun­dle to reach out to a UBC Okana­gan re­searcher who has been run­ning a dog ther­apy pro­gram at the univer­sity for the past seven years, and to ask that ther­apy dogs be in­tro­duced to the Kelowna po­lice sta­tion.

“There are a lot of stres­sors in­volved in po­lice work and, over time, those stres­sors build up,” said Mun­dle. Re­searcher John-Tyler Bin­fet runs the dog ther­apy pro­gram Build­ing Aca­demic Re­ten­tion through K9’s at UBCO, which brings to­gether trained ther­apy dogs and their vol­un­teer han­dlers to re­duce stress and com­bat stu­dent home­sick­ness.

Through the BARK pro­gram, Bin­fet has also been re­search­ing the ef­fect of dogs on peo­ple’s well­be­ing.

“The dogs con­tribute di­rectly to help­ing peo­ple re­duce their stress,” he said.

A group of ther­apy dogs and vol­un­teers has come to the Kelowna de­tach­ment for seven 90-minute drop-in ses­sions so far, with one left next week.

“The re­ac­tion from the of­fi­cers and all of our em­ploy­ees has been very pos­i­tive,” said Mun­dle. “I’ve re­ceived a lot of per­sonal con­tacts and emails from the em­ploy­ees that sup­port the pro­gram . . . and a num­ber of them have truly in­di­cated that they hope the pro­gram con­tin­ues.”

De­pend­ing on the re­sults of the study, Mun­dle said he is open to dis­cussing whether the pro­gram can be­come a per­ma­nent fea­ture at the sta­tion.

“Per­son­ally, it’s nice to have that bit of a break and an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with the dog and bring some light to the day in my day-to-day re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” he said.

AN­DREA PEA­COCK/The Okana­gan Week­end

Cpl. Jesse O’Don­aghey pets ther­apy dog Dash at the Kelowna RCMP de­tach­ment.

Mun­dle

Bin­fet

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