Dispatcher trains her own puppy as therapy dog for first responders

Diane Barnett said she saw potential in her German shepherd, so she’s now funding his training to be an official therapy dog

By FireRescue1 Staff

BAY COUNTY, Fla. — A dispatcher is training her own puppy to be a therapy dog for first responders.

MyPanhandle.com reported that 23-year veteran Bay County dispatcher Diane Barnett noticed potential in her personal pet, a 14-week-old German shepherd named Axel.

"I originally got him for a pet, for our house," Barnett said. "But I started noticing he was making the eye contact and wanted the training and interaction. 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, so Barnett began paying out of pocket to take Axel to the necessary classes. She hopes to have him officially-certified in the next year.

"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," paramedic Capt. Danny Page said. “The amount of first responder suicides is going up and to me that's just unacceptable."

Capt. Page created the Critical Incident Management Stress Team and said Axel would be a great addition.

"People react when a dog comes into the room," Page said. "Especially when this guy walks in, their faces brighten and light up.”


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