Meet Buster: Northamptonshire Police’s new ‘wellbeing and trauma dog’

The Northamptonshire Police Department this month was accompanied by Buster, a 13-month-old Llasa Apso dog who will now be embarking on his vital journey to support the mental health of officers and staff across the police force.

Buster has joined the police force as a health and trauma dog as part of a national Oscar Kilo program whose sole purpose is to provide a calming presence to staff and support the organization’s wellbeing and mental health.

The Oscar Kilo Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs service aims to provide wellbeing dogs to all police forces who wish to offer a dog as part of their preventative healthcare. The service is currently represented by 30 UK police, fire and rescue services nationwide.

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Buster, the Northamptonshire Police’s new “Wellbeing and Trauma” dog, with owner, Superintendent Emily Vernon.

Sergeant Sharan Wildman, who directed the dog introduction program for the Northamptonshire Police Department, said, “There is much evidence of the physical benefits of a dog, but new research is clearly showing the many ways dogs can provide mental support can improve health by creating a sense of calm, improving daily emotional and psychological stress, and helping people cope with the effects of a traumatic event.

“Police officers and police officers do demanding and sometimes dangerous jobs and are often exposed to trauma in many roles.

“Whether it’s call handlers responding to stressful or disturbing calls, or officials investigating serious or traumatic incidents, Buster’s job will be to help those in need at work for a few minutes.”

Health dogs can be introduced after officers experience traumatic or stressful circumstances or as part of a debriefing. It is a voluntary role officers and staff take on beyond their day-to-day work as they personally understand the benefits of having a dog.

To make sure Buster was fit for the role, the pooch was examined by one of the Northamptonshire Police’s dog handlers, PC Steve Thorpe. This should ensure that Buster had the right temperament and nature as a feel-good dog and of course passed with flying colors.

Buster was officially accredited last week and has made several visits to the Northamptonshire Police Control room with his owner, Superintendent Emily Vernon, to meet 999 call handlers.

Superintendent Emily Vernon said, “When the police were looking for potential dogs, I was excited to introduce Buster as a contender. He’s smart, loves attention and does absolutely anything for a treat – he’s already made a best friend in the Chief Constable.

“We have already seen the tremendously positive impact that Buster’s visits have on his workplace environment. When he’s around, the atmosphere changes instantly and people want to interact with him, which in turn reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.

“Wellbeing is incredibly important in the workplace, especially after the challenges of Covid-19, and it is heartwarming to see the positive effects Buster is already having on everyone around him. I am very excited to be part of this initiative and look forward to introducing him to the rest of the organization. “

Buster’s first official visit was earlier this month when he and Superintendent Vernon were visiting officers and staff at Darby House in Wellingborough. The cute dog was officially greeted by Chief Constable Nick Adderley – with a treat or two, of course.