He’s 14 weeks of fluff with ears he is still growing into and a puppy face that’s guaranteed to make you smile.
Good thing. That’s his job.
Axel, a German Shepard, is “in training” to become a therapy dog for Bay county first responders.
“I originally got him for a pet, for our house,” said Diane Barnett. “But I started noticing he was making the eye contact and wanted the training and interaction.”
Bay County Dispatcher Diane Barnett saw his potential and sees a need, everyday, for her coworkers.
“I know how much I enjoy my pets when I’ve had a hard day and come home. How great. Let me share this. Let me see if Chief will let me share this.”
Chief Mark Bowen loved the idea and gave his full support. Barnett will use her spare time continuing to work with Axel and taking him to the necessary training classes, with hopes to have him certified as a therapy dog within a year. She’s also funding all of the classes and the means necessary to get axle officially certified.
“Statistics nationally and locally show first responders have a difficult time coping with the different stuff we have to deal with, and those numbers are up, said Paramedic Capt. Danny Page. “The amount of first responder suicides are going up and to me that’s just unacceptable.”
Page is the creator of the Critical Incident Management Stress Team. It’s a team made up of only first responders who counsel other first responders when they’ve had a bad call.
He said Axel will be a great asset.
“People react when a dog comes into the room,” said Page. “Especially when this guy walks in, their faces brighten and light up”.
When Barnett isn’t working with Axel, she’s putting on her headset and answering her community’s calls for help.
This year marks 23 years as a 911 dispatcher.