Mounties going to the dogs, and they couldn’t be happier
Kelowna RCMP try out therapy dogs in test program aimed at reducing stress
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.
Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey pets therapy dog Dash at the Kelowna RCMP detachment.