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Devon 'defusing' dog is UK first

Matt Goodman (top) with Digby Labradoodle

Fire service brings Devon news of canine therapist (and he's an Aussie)

Meet Digby (he's the brown hairy one in the photo). 

Digby's a four month old Australian Labradoodle and the latest recruit at Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service. He's now completing his socialisation training. When he reaches eight months old and has been fully assessed by charity Pets as Therapy (PAT) he will become a Therapy K9.

The assessment is all about him having the right personality and confidence around people, particularly young people. So he needs to be a friendly sociable dog that is happy in large groups because Digby will also provide contact with vulnerable people in schools, hospices and hospitals for the charity.

Digby will also support the fire service with his handler, operational licence and training delivery manager, Matt Goodman, when he is assisting crew who have returned from a traumatic incident. The fire crew will have the option for Digby to attend what's known as a defusing session.

He's already attended one incident as part of his training, at a serious collision on the A35 near Honiton. Mr Goodman explains: “The crews immediately responded to Digby when he arrived at the fire station, which provided a positive focus both before and during the defusing session. 

“The use of therapy dogs has been scientifically proven to help people who have been exposed to traumatic situations or who are dealing with very challenging situations in their lives such as ill health or learning ability.”

The fire sector makes good use of canines as arson dogs and live scent rescue dogs for example, but Mr Goodman believes Digby is the first therapy dog to support firefighters during the defusing process.  

Australian Labradoodles are specifically bred for their hypoallergenic fleece which is very soft and less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

About Defusing

Defusing helps to protect firefighters from harm and reduces days lost to sickness. Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service's critical incident defusing process  prevents long term psychological damage after firefighters attend traumatic operational incidents by reducing the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.


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