Digby the doggy volunteer

Digby is a three year old Labradoodle who volunteers for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service supporting the delivery of critical incident defusing.

This is a process where firefighters and control room operators are able to discuss their experience after dealing with challenging and difficult incidents where members of the public have been seriously injured or lost their lives. The purpose of defusing is to reduce the risk of developing post-traumatic stress and where necessary, supporting individuals to gain access to counselling or other support.

Digby provides a positive distraction when crews arrive back at station or in the control room. Therapy dogs are simply themselves and people automatically feel at ease and comfortable engaging with a dog that is comfortable being stroked and made a fuss of. This is known to lower blood pressure and heart rate which in turn helps the defusing process.

But Digby’s help goes even further. Earlier this month, on Twitter, the Fire Service wrote:

“Today he did something amazing and helped save a young woman who was thinking of taking her own life on a bridge over the M5 near Exeter. We were at the incident as part of a multi-agency response. Police negotiators were speaking with the woman but the situation was becoming increasingly worrying. One of the fire crews had the idea to bring along Digby, our ‘defusing’ dog…

When Digby arrived, the young woman immediately swung her head round to look, and smiled. This got a conversation started about Digby and his role at the fire service. She was asked if she would like to come and meet Digby if she came back over the railings, which we are pleased to say she did. We wish the woman involved all the best in her recovery.”

Thank you for all the offers of treats and gifts, say the Fire Service, but Digby would rather you donate to people who are in difficult situations like the Samaritans www.samaritans.org or The Fire Fighters Charity http://orlo.uk/DXPxp

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