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Man’s best friend answers call of traumatic events
Written by Lu Stitt   
Wednesday, 13 October 2010 00:00

Not many people are prepared for the unexpected so when it happens, it is helpful to have someone to lean on.

In 2000, Yavapai County began a program to give people that someone to lean on: the Yavapai Chapter of Trauma Intervention Programs TIP is a group of specially trained volunteers who provide emotional aid and practical support to victims of traumatic events and their families in the first few minutes and hours following a crisis.

Carolyn Croft and her chocolate Labrador retriever, River, are ready to assist Trauma Intervention Program volunteers with comforting physically uninjured but traumatized people involved in accidents or other tragedies. Croft said 3-year-old River has the ideal disposition for the task and has completed a year of training for the job. He is the first TIP dog in Sedona and the Verde Valley.While emergency responders — fire and police — attend to physical injuries, TIP volunteers lend support to victims and their families. The volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

They are called by police officers, firefighters, paramedics and hospital personnel to assist family members and friends following a natural or unexpected death; victims of violent crime including rape, assault, robbery or burglary; victims of fire; disoriented or lonely elderly persons; people involved in motor vehicle collisions; or loved ones following a suicide.

Recently, TIP expanded their volunteer corps to include specially trained dogs.

“People sometimes will talk to a dog where they may otherwise be hesitant. When there’s a dog, people go to them and it helps calm them down,” TIP volunteer Carolyn Croft said. She and her chocolate Labrador retriever, River, work as a team. “The dog would be mostly to comfort someone like children or the elderly. Plus, they will focus on the dog rather than the situation.”

Sometimes a dog can comfort in ways a human cannot. Dogs never say the wrong thing, don’t ask questions, won’t judge and always offer unconditional love. Trained therapy dogs sense when someone needs comfort.

River is already used to comforting people. He is a Delta Dog and regularly goes to Verde Valley Medical Center and the Mingus Center in Cottonwood. River also visits local schools.

To become a TIP dog, River had to pass the Delta complex rating which Croft said he did easily. With the rating River is allowed to go anywhere as long as he is wearing his vest or his bandana to identify him as a Delta/TIP dog, she said.

“We went to Prescott and did special training for TIP, and again over on this side with Crystal Craycroft. River did absolutely perfect,” Croft said as River accepted a pat and went to rest in his favorite spot — on the cool tile under the kitchen table. “He’s just a natural. He does what he’s supposed to do.”

River is the first and, so far, the only TIP-trained dog in Sedona and the Verde Valley.

River does not push himself on anyone. Croft said he gets up close to people and lets them come the rest of the way. At the hospital, he’s tall enough to put his nose on the bed. People pet him, they talk to him, scratch his ears and hug him, especially the children, she said.

“Dogs are amazing. It seems he can read my mind, and knows what day it is or when it’s time to go somewhere. He seems real sensitive to people’s needs,” Croft said.

Croft adopted River when he was 1 year old nearly three and a half years ago. The owners who had him could not keep him and advertised in the newspaper. Croft called the number and took him.

“He’s been a wonderful companion. River’s the first dog I’ve had that became a Delta Dog, and now a TIP dog,” Croft said and gave her pet a treat. “He works for cookies. I make my own so I know what’s in them.”

The TIP program serves several agencies within Sedona and the Verde Valley like the Sedona Fire District; Sedona Police Department; Verde Valley Fire District; Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood and Sedona; city of Cottonwood; Cottonwood police and fire departments; and Clarkdale, Camp Verde and Montezuma Rimrock fire districts.

Anyone who is interested in helping people traumatized by a crisis and would like to work with police officers, firefighters and nurses on emergency scenes can attend a training course that begins Tuesday, Nov. 2, in Cottonwood. For more information, call 713-6625.

“If people have a dog and want to see if they qualify to be a TIP dog, they can call the same number,” Croft said.


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