After I wrote about the trained dog and handler teams working at Taft Union High School, I received many inquiries from people interested in training and volunteering with their own dogs in a similar capacity.
And then shortly thereafter KGET-Channel 17 did a story on how important the dogs' visits have been in the healing process for the children and staff at Taft, and interest in Disaster Stress Relief Dogs literally went through the roof.
That's a good thing, because the need for trained teams ready to respond when called is great due to the increased number of natural and manmade disasters that affect our lives on an almost daily basis.
But it's important to emphasize that because DSR work places teams under conditions more challenging than those faced during the typical hospital visit, strict standards must be used in the selection of dogs and handlers for emergency or disaster situations.
Which is why not every handler/dog team that responded to the callout in the hours following the shooting was selected for service.
So what are the requirements?
Here's the Disaster Stress Relief Dog Test, printed with permission from Therapy Dogs International, Inc.:
Please note: Our testing requirements are stringent. It goes without saying that the temperament of the dog must be outstanding, and the dog should be able to handle all kinds of situations without prior experience.
We evaluate you as well as your dog (including a psychological evaluation of the handler).
* Your dog must be able to pass all parts of the original TDI test. (Check the website for updates in testing requirements!)
* You and your dog must be in good physical condition and be able to walk a distance of one mile.
* You and your dog will be subjected to extreme noise from fire engines, etc.
* Your dog must be able to work and be transported with other dogs (both genders) in close quarters, such as in cars, trolleys boats, elevators, etc.
* Your dog must be able to work under various conditions, with people crowding the dog and approaching from all sides and without prior warning or introduction.
* You, the handler must go through additional training by completing the following courses, which can be taken online:
Introduction to the Incident Command System (ICS 100) IS-00100
Introduction for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents (ICS 200) IS-00200
National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Introduction IS-00700
Psychological First Aid, and as soon as it becomes available:
Introduction to Disaster and Trauma Counseling: The FEMA CCP
Additional notes: TDI dog/handler teams must have a minimum of one year of visitations to test for DSR.
TDI dog/handler teams are prohibited from visiting any individuals who have been affected by a natural or manmade disaster without approval from TDI.
Volunteer services of TDI DSRD teams are obtained through official invitation by recognized federal, state and municipal agencies, school boards, disaster stress relief agencies or others in need of our services.
We hope to have a DSRD test in the Bakersfield area in the near future and look forward to having dedicated teams willing to test and serve.
For more information or to request an application, call the TDI office at (973) 252-9800, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Agility Trial hosted by Kern Canine Activities will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, at the Kern County Fairgrounds.
-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at csi4k9s @yahoo.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californ ian's.