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Sheboygan County using therapy dogs in 911 center

Posted at 9:42 PM, Sep 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 13:17:59-04

It's your first call during an emergency, but dispatch centers across the country are struggling to keep staff. Sheboygan County is now taking a unique approach to combat the national shortage with therapy dogs.

In Sheboygan County, the dispatch center has been understaffed for the last six years. It is currently down 25 percent of its workforce.

The communication manager for the dispatch center Lt. Kristy DeBlaey said part of the reason for the high turnover is the stress of the job.

"A lot of adrenaline running throughout the shift because you don't know what is going to happen. Anything can happen, you have to be ready for it," said dispatcher Holly Parker.

Part of the stress comes because DeBlaey said dispatchers rarely get to find out what happened on their calls. They hear a traumatic situation but have to move on to the next call. 

"For the people in here they give CPR, the ambulance takes them to the hospital and they never hear the end result," said DeBlaey. 

She said it magnifies their already stressful job.

Across the country, DeBlaey said dispatcher will last, on average, six years on the job. It's why the Sheboygan County Sheriff's office just launched a therapy dog program.

It is staffed by volunteers with certified therapy dogs. They come into the 911 center once a week and let dispatchers pet them when they have a break.

"People think you have to be sick to need comfort. But everybody needs some stress relief," said therapy dog volunteer Betty Price.

"I feel that these are people who are working hard to protect and save all of us, animals included and if we can bring a few moments of respite to them that would be a good thing," said therapy dog volunteer Jayne Zamrowski.

Sheboygan County currently has the dogs coming on a regular schedule but eventually, they want them to come and go as needed, even responding if there is a traumatic call.