Foster dog easing stress for Johnson County 911 dispatchers 

FRANKLIN, Ind - A new four-legged friend is helping ease daily stress for 911 emergency dispatchers in Johnson County.

As part of a partnership with the Johnson County Animal Shelter, the Emergency Communications Center is fostering a 6-year-old shepherd pointer mix named Lincoln.  The idea is to let Lincoln’s calming presence help relieve some of the stress dispatchers face each day.

“How do you not smile when a dog comes up and lays their head in your lap?” asked 911 Director Heath Brant.

Brant says 911 dispatchers can often suffer from post-traumatic stress levels similar to police officers and firefighters, due to the nature of the phone calls they take.

“It’s very rare that people are calling us because they’re having a good day,” Brant said. “We’re talking to people that are having the worst day of their life in many cases, because a loved one has died, or a child has died, or they’re thinking of harming themselves.”

“We’ve got several people that have taken calls that have taken some calls that stick with them,” Brant said.  “I know I’ve taken calls that I’ll never forget.”

Since Lincoln moved into the 911 center a week and a half ago, Brant says his calming presence is already noticeable.  The center is staffed 24 hours a day, so Lincoln lives there.  He spends his days walking from dispatcher to dispatcher, getting treats, hugs and back scratches whenever he wants.  And, Brant said, Lincoln already knows where his locker is.

“Typically when he hears that, he goes around there to where his locker is, because he knows that’s where the treats are,” Brant said.  “People, when they first walk in the door, Lincoln’s been the first one to greet them.  And it’s, ‘Hey, buddy, how are you?’  And they’re just happy to see him.”

Lincoln gets his name from the place where he was found as a stray, wandering around the 84 Lumber yard in Greenwood, surrounded by logs.  Like “Lincoln Logs.”

The partnership is also meant to benefit the foster dog by giving him a special home away from the animal shelter and helping to socialize him.

“We have a period of time where we have an animal in dispatch to help relieve the stress,” Brant said.  “The animal becomes more socialized, and so is more adoptable.  So it benefits everybody.”

In bittersweet fashion, the strategy is already working.  Lincoln is already scheduled to be adopted by a Franklin police officer.  That’s good news for Lincoln, who will soon have a forever home.  But it also means his time at the dispatch center is short.

“I think part of the arrangement we’re going to have to work out with the Franklin officer is that she has to bring him in for visitation every once in a while,” Brant said.

After Lincoln is adopted in the coming days, the 911 center already has their eye on another dog at the animal shelter.  They plan to bring that dog in, and start the fostering process over again.

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