Meet Buster: Northamptonshire Police's new 'wellbeing and trauma dog'

Thirteen-month-old Buster, a Llasa Apso dog, is putting his best paw forward to do his bit in supporting the mental wellbeing of police officers and staff across the county

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 9:15 am

Northamptonshire Police has this month been joined by Buster, a 13-month-old Llasa Apso dog who will now em-bark on his important journey to support the mental health of police officers and staff across the force.

Buster has joined the police through a national Oscar Kilo scheme as a wellbeing and trauma dog, whose unique purpose will be to provide a calming presence amongst staff and support organisational wellbeing and mental health.

The Oscar Kilo Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs service aims to make wellbeing dogs available to all police forces, who wish to introduce a dog as part of their wellbeing provision. The service currently has representation from 30 UK police forces and fire and rescue services nationwide.

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Northamptonshire Police's new 'wellbeing and trauma dog', Buster, with his owner Superintendent Emily Vernon.

Sergeant Sharan Wildman, who has led the programme for introducing wellbeing dogs to Northamptonshire Police, said: “There is plenty of evidence proving the physical benefits of having a dog, however emerging research clearly shows the many ways in which dogs can provide support with mental health by creating a sense of calm, improving daily emotional and psychological stresses and helping people to deal with the impact of a traumatic event.

“Police officers and staff do a demanding and sometimes dangerous job, and in many roles are frequently exposed to trauma.

"Whether it’s call handlers responding to stressful or upsetting calls, or officers investigating serious or traumatic incidents, Buster’s role will be to provide a few minutes of relief for those in need across the workplace.”

Wellbeing dogs can be introduced after officers have dealt with traumatic or stressful circumstances or as part of a de-briefing process. It is a voluntary role which officers and staff undertake over and above their day job as they personally understand the benefits of having a dog.

To ensure Buster was appropriate for the role, the pooch underwent a period of assessment by one of Northamptonshire Police's dog handlers, PC Steve Thorpe. This was to make sure Buster had the right temperament and nature as a wellbeing dog and, needless to say, he passed with flying colours.

Buster was formally accredited last week and he - along with his owner, Superintendent Emily Vernon - have already paid several visits to the Northamptonshire Police Force Control Room to get to know 999 call handlers.

Superintendent Emily Vernon said: “When the force was on the hunt for potential wellbeing dogs, I was excited to put forward Buster as a contender. He is smart, loves attention, and will do absolutely anything for a treat – he has already found a best friend with the Chief Constable.

“We have already seen the hugely positive impact of Buster’s visits on those around him within the workplace. When he is around, the atmosphere immediately changes, with people keen to interact with him which in turn reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.

“Wellbeing is incredibly important in the workplace and particularly so after the challenges of Covid-19, and it is heart-warming to see the positive impact Buster is already having on everyone around him. I am really pleased to be part of this initiative, and look forward to introducing him to the rest of the organisation.”

Buster’s first visit in an official capacity was made earlier this month, where he and Superintendent Vernon visited officers and staff based at Darby House in Wellingborough. The cute canine was formally welcomed by Chief Constable Nick Adderley - with a treat or two, of course.