Updated: Jun 14
I have been working with various VOAD Chapters across the country under my DogE911 program since about 2009-10. The Santa Barbara organization is probably the one I have devoted most of my time assisting with though since I live in Santa Barbara County.
I have been honored to work alongside many other wonderful programs that help animals & people during a time of need. DogE911 ‘All Pet Emergency Training’ is a national organization that trains & works with youth, pet owners, Animal Professionals, & First Responders educating them on preventative care, triage, & disaster response. I & my team have assisted during many disaster situations over the years.
During the Thomas Fire, an SBC VOAD Representative reached out to me for a special request. She wanted to know if I could facilitate Therapy Dogs to aid the working Firefighters & the displaced residents. I was already busy doing media for various animal specific disaster rescue groups, as well as the American Red Cross where pets were housed, to gain donations & much needed supplies. We were also working directly with large animals at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, particularly with the evacuated Santa Barbara Polo Club Horses.
I reached out to my contacts & quickly put together a crew of Therapy Dogs, including my own little Therapy Dachshund, Chloe. I had two teams of Animal Handlers come out (SLODOG Caring Canines under Alliance Of Therapy Animals & New Life K9s) who not only visited/comforted those requested, but also workers at the Santa Barbara Sheriffs Dispatch Call Center, the EOC Fire Department Headquarters, & more. I was able to join the teams that first day with my little Chloe & luckily got to observe the amazing connections the dogs had with raising people’s spirits as we made our rounds from the Red Cross shelters, to the firefighter encampments, & beyond.
There had been a tragic loss of a Firefighter for one of the crews, & these visits really helped boost moral especially since the Thomas Fire fell during the Christmas holiday season. I arranged with the Therapy Dog teams to have continued visits for those impacted all through the next month even on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t make it back out with Chloe since I was busy bouncing back & forth from the fairgrounds to the animal shelters. But I am thankful that VOAD reached out to me directly for my assistance & I could make a difference for those displaced, as well as those who were giving their all.
Story and Photos credited to and courtesy of Genéte M. Bowen - DogE911 Founder/Trainer