Haldimand County’s Community Paramedic Wellness Dogs program is set to expand this fall after an overwhelmingly successful pilot run earlier this year. With encouraging reports from program participants of reduced stress and anxiety, and improved feelings of health and wellbeing, Haldimand is looking to grow the program’s reach through additional handlers, expanded on-call response, and increased Victim Services support.
“We’re thrilled to see this program taking off the way it has,” says Mike Evers, General Manager, Community & Development Services. “Having support dogs directly integrated into our EMS medical care to support clients, staff, and the community is quite unique and we’re proud to be among the first, if not the first, in the country to utilize this approach.”
Part of the County’s Community Paramedic Program, which delivers specialized service through community outreach, the Wellness Dogs program currently supports full-time medical clients, Haldimand County first responders and OPP West officers, Victim Services staff, Haldimand County community programming, Grandview Lodge and local hospitals, along with attendance at public festival and events.
“Our goal is to expand the number of dog handlers, from one to around eight, to increase our program capacity,” explains Community Paramedic and dog handler, Nicole Selby. “Currently, the partial capacity of one dog handler can meet the needs of about 15 full-time clients in addition to various community engagements. With eight handlers at full capacity, there’s potential for supporting up to 100 full-time clients, and providing a greater presence in the community.”
The program is funded through Ontario Health and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, with the service dogs generously donated by community partners. Haldimand County has one full-time service dog who was donated by Autism Dog Services (ADS) and three part-time therapy dogs who are loaned to the program from Tsaheylu Shepherds, K9 Fun Zone, and the Shapton Family. The County will be continuing to develop and maintain new and current partnerships to train and secure future dogs for the program.
Medical clients of the Wellness Dogs program are referred to the Community Paramedic Program by their physician or health care professional. For community outreach opportunities, such as school visits, hospital visits, and attendance at public events, facilities or program directors can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for requests and more information.