HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response Teams
By: Nancy Hawley, MA, LMHC ~
You have likely heard of dog teams that have responded to tragic events, or not, as they are often quietly in the background providing a calm reassurance to those who have been affected. These teams consist of highly trained, in crisis response, dog and handler teams. The teams provide support for victims, survivors and the emergency management professionals and are deployed all over the United States.
While I cannot intimately speak of all or even most dog teams, I have been fortunate to partner with the HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response Teams. I first met the teams while responding to the mudslide that occurred near Oso, WA. It was only in hindsight that I realized how valuable the teams were to me personally. It was my first response to a mass tragedy and the scene was overwhelming. My natural response is to provide care to others and in doing so, finding balance to take care of me so that I can continue giving. The dogs were a true comfort to me and enabled me to show up, day after day, to provide comfort to others.
A short seven months later I was again asked to respond to a mass tragedy, this one involving students at a local high school. A very smart and compassionate person, part of the Emergency Management Team, asked that the HOPE dog teams be deployed to the high school. Once again I had the opportunity to witness the healing benefits of the dog teams for students and staff. In their quiet, calm way, they brought a presence that no human ever could. They gathered where the students gathered, sensing who needed to snuggle or warm, fuzzy companion when no words could express the shock and horror of their experience. The dog teams stayed as long as they were needed then just as quietly faded away.
Throughout the coming months and years the HOPE teams have been deployed to assist during stressful events at the high school, bringing their presence to anniversary events, support groups and assemblies. For students and staff, they are a reminder of calm during a storm of emotions. For me, the dog teams have become a welcome partner when responding to traumatic events.
The quickest way to activate these special teams in Western Washington is to contact Raquel Lackey via phone: (206) 696-2184 or email: RaquelLackey@me.com. Please check out the website for more information and inspiring pictures: www.hopeaacr.org
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