Nevada County officials say dispatch dog helps with stress, can lead to lower employee turnover
Special to The Union
Chance just got a second chance.
Chance is a wellness dog serving at the Nevada County Regional Dispatch Center. He works with the 12 full- and part-time Nevada County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers who toil 12-hour shifts in a cramped, windowless room within the jail.
“Dispatching is completely unpredictable but always stressful, from a simple call that someone’s mail was stolen to a domestic violence incident or a toddler gone missing,” said Dispatch Operations Manager Andrew Trygg. “Now dispatchers have Chance. They can take a break, pet him, throw a ball, go on a walk, get some fresh air and reset their brains.”
Chance the Dispatch Dog is a neutered male pit bull mix, approximately 7 years old. No one is certain how old he is because he was found abandoned in the camping area of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, tied to a tree.
Once rescued, Chance spent six months at the county animal shelter operated by Sammie’s Friends. On Oct. 14, Chance started his new career at the dispatch center on a trial basis.
“We wanted to make sure he would fit in, and that his care wouldn’t create any burdens for dispatchers,” said Sheriff Shannan Moon. “Dispatching is a high-stress environment, and Chance is very relaxed, calm, and easy to get along with. He’s incredibly friendly and sweet, and he loves attention. He’s a fantastic addition.”
Chance lives full time at the dispatch center. It is staffed by several dispatchers 24/7 who handle calls for sheriff’s deputies, Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee police departments, and some animal control officers.
Last week, county officials gave the green light to make the Dispatch Dog position permanent.
“The program is based on successful and proven models across the country that have shown having a wellness dog in 911 dispatch can lead to lower staff turnover, assist with recruitment, and most importantly reduce stress in a very important and demanding job,” said County Executive Officer Alison Lehman. “The county welcomes Chance and I look forward to seeing him in new hire orientation.”
“We’re making an official ID card for Chance, and I’m getting him a badge,” said Moon.
The nominal cost of Chance’s upkeep will be part of the Sheriff’s Office’s canine program budget. The department is working toward the acquisition of two K-9 patrol officers, a process the sheriff hopes will be completed by the end of next year.
The dispatch operations manager said it’s as if Chance was destined to live his life at the center.
“For example, Chance was here in our center when we were working the Dorsey Drive fire and the stress was through roof,” said Trygg. “Chance just curled up on his blanket under the table. We forgot he was here until things settled down and somebody looked for him because they wanted to pet him.”
Dispatchers say they adore their new co-worker. Some have bought and even hand-made sweaters, jackets and blankets for their new Dispatch Dog.
Tami Holdcroft has worked at the dispatch center for 17 years.
“It’s a high stress job and this was a noble move on everyone’s part to help us cope with it,” said Holdcroft, adding that suicide and child endangerment calls are among the toughest to handle. “But as soon as you hang up, no matter how bad day your day is going, you can’t be in a bad mood when Chance comes over and wants attention. He can sense when he’s needed.”
Dispatchers come in early, and sometimes on their days off, just to walk Chance on trails near the Nevada County Jail and Eric Rood Administrative Center. Patrol deputies stop by to visit him, too.
“Chance is the light of our lives,” said Alex Marcucci, who next month will mark her first year working in the dispatch center. “I love going to work and seeing Chance running up to me and wagging his tail.
“He gets us up and moving so we’re not sedentary all the time. It’s such a nice break not to sit for hours at a computer and on the phone and radio. Taking a 10-minute walk with Chance clears our minds and is uplifting for us and for him. This is the life he deserves.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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