You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

“She Walks Beside Them”: A Dog Provides Support to Survivors

2014-08-29 - Snohomish - “She Walks Beside Them”: A Dog Provides Support to Survivors
A lot of people I meet on a disaster response don’t know my name, but they know Joy’s.

“Everywhere I go, she goes,” said volunteer Carol Janssens about her service dog, Joy, a six-year-old Labrador Retriever.

Joy was a permanent fixture in the Arlington shelter, which Janssens managed during the Red Cross emergency response in the wake of the Washington landslide disaster. The shelter was a hub for survivors, family and friends, all waiting to hear news from the rescue and search teams. Who had survived? Had they been found?

“For the first week, they were in shock, grieving, hoping their loved ones would be found alive,” Janssens explained. As her constant companion, Joy soon became a friend to the survivors of the landslide, as well as the first responders. “They would come into the shelter and many wanted to pet her, soon, they would come looking for her every time they came in,” she added.

Golden in color and mellow in nature, Joy is also a therapy dog and Janssens has engaged her in local homeless missions and for school children addressing behavioral issues.

Family members got to know Joy and when they got bad news, Joy was often there, Janssens recalled. “For post-traumatic stress, it’s been shown that therapy dogs can help, especially as people are experiencing the disaster.” Families who were facing bad news would request to be with Joy, Janssens added. “She sensed what they were going through, she walked beside them, it was invaluable support to have her there.”

Joy has accompanied Janssens on a number of deployments, including Hurricane Sandy and is part of the Red Cross Pet Partner Program.

I always check with people to ensure they don't have allergies and aren’t afraid of dogs. I have to respect that,” Janssens said. “But usually, a lot of people I meet on a disaster response don’t know my name, but they know Joy’s.”