Therapy dog helps emergency dispatchers cope with job stress

In an emergency, they are the true first responders. At the Hamilton County 911 center, dispatchers offer help to people during their worst days. Some days though, are tougher than others.

It's been a tough two years for the Chattanooga community. In 2015 we experienced the Chattanooga Terrorist Attacks, and then 16 months later, the Woodmore Bus Tragedy. The overwhelming stress dispatchers saw that day is where a four-legged friend comes in.

Ron Leonard and his 6-year-old dog, Molly, are inseparable. “Good with people, good with children. Their vets sign off on the dog,” said Leonard.

The duo volunteers for Canines for Christ; an animal-assisted therapy ministry.  It uses ordinary people and their dogs to share a message of love, kindness, and compassion. “She is so calm, she breaks through barriers I cannot break through myself.”

Molly has made over 17 hundred visits all over the Southeast. Earlier this year, Ron felt compelled to introduce Molly to Chattanooga. “The whole nation knows about the worst day that we were here in dispatch. It was July 16th, two years ago,” said Amy McBryar, a Hamilton County 911 dispatcher.

Amy McBryar was sitting in this same spot the day of the Chattanooga terrorist attacks. She answered those calls, as well as the calls from the scene of the Woodmore bus tragedy. “We have to take it all in, and it stays there and we don't have anywhere to put it. So we find an outlet.”

Molly is that outlet. “We need puppy therapy. Sit in a pile of puppies and just play with puppies. Then she came in, no idea she was coming. I got my puppy therapy.”

McBryar's experience is similar to many other emergency dispatchers. She's a faceless voice of calm and reason, through people's most difficult moments. “I love my job, I love what I do. I feel like I am helping and helping the officers do what they need to do they don't have to think about the tasks I do. I just get them what they need.”

And thanks to special people like Ron, and his friend Molly, she can do just that. “It is hard sometimes, but you have to think about the good times and let them take over and not dwell on everything that could've happen or did happen.”

“She brings a calmness down to an already stressful job,” said Leonard.

Molly and Ron would love to stop by your area. Learn more about Canines for Christ organization online.