Members reaping the benefits of wellbeing dogs project

From improving mental health to bringing teams together, South Wales Police Federation members are reaping the benefits of having regular visits from wellbeing dogs.

Since the recent launch of Oscar Kilo’s wellbeing and trauma support dogs project, two pooches have been spending time with officers across the force and have already become familiar furry faces among the staff.

The pair of pooches, a Belgian malinois called Carter and a cocker spaniel called Winnie, have “gone down a storm” with officers, according to Kaylee Noble, who oversees their visits.

“It’s amazing to see just how much of an impact the dogs can have on officers and staff,” says Kaylee, who is an animal welfare officer with South Wales Police. 

“If I walked into a room on my own people probably wouldn’t reach out and open up to me but, as soon as I walk in with a dog, it’s a different story. The greeting I get when I walk into a room with one of the dogs is unreal.

“When I introduce myself to people, I say, ‘I’m Kaylee and this is Carter and Winnie, although you won’t remember my name, you’ll only remember the dogs’. It’s true, they always remember the dogs’ names, never mine, it’s become an ongoing joke.”

Kaylee says that there have been several occasions where she has walked into a room and nobody is talking and all of a sudden, the room is brought to life because of the dogs.

“The dogs really do bring teams together,” she says, adding: “I remember one inspector saying that he’d actually seen people come into the room that he hadn’t seen in months.”

Having worked as an animal welfare officer for two years, Kaylee says it is easy for her to sometimes lose sight of how important interaction with animals can be.

“I’m extremely passionate about animals but sometimes, working around them all the time, you forget how much a difference they can make to others,” explains Kaylee, who has recently completed her mental health training so she can officially become an Oscar Kilo 9 dog handler.

“Being part of this project is just amazing.”

Kaylee says that the dogs offer so much more than mental health to her colleagues.

“One of the pieces of feedback we were given still gives me goosebumps today. We visited a frontline officer who was grieving a family member although we didn’t know that at the time. After we’d left, he fed back to us to say our visit had really helped him,” says Kaylee.

“But we help with other things too, like helping people to face their fears. I remember one officer who was scared of dogs, just because she hadn’t been around dogs before. Well, once we’d left, she was a different person, they totally calmed her down, it was amazing.”

Both Carter and Winnie are failed police dogs but Kaylee says being able to support officers in a different way has given them a new lease of life.

“It’s great that they are still able to have a role within the Force,” says Kaylee, who actually adopted Carter after he failed to train as a police dog.

“And they enjoy it too, which is so important. We care about their wellbeing just as much.”

Kaylee, who is now working on getting a police van to transport Carter and Winnie in, says she is shocked at how far the wellbeing dog project has come so far.

“It’s unbelievable really,” she adds, “This all started from a conversation between me and my manager. I suggested we should do something with the dogs, but it wasn’t until I did a bit of research that I realised Oscar Kilo had launched their project. It’s all snowballed from there.

“To be honest, this wouldn’t have been possible without my Temporary Inspector Andrew Patterson and yard manager Katrina Edmonds-Daniel who are such a big part of the team.

“I’m really excited for what the future holds.”