New Puppy Doubles Canine Safety Strength at Providence St. Mary in Walla Walla | health and fitness

As tempting as it may be to offer chin scratches and ear rubs to the newest security guard at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, it’s really best to let him do his job.

Or, rather, continue training for his job.

K-9 Officer Mylo recently doubled the strength of the hospital’s K-9 program, joining founding veteran K-9 Axel, a Malinois German-Belgian Shepherd crossbreed, to form a four-legged security force of two .

Like his mentor, Mylo is handsome in his tan and black fur over which is fitted a sturdy black vest, easily pointing to the puppy as a security worker.

Canine support has become vital to a safer hospital environment, said Susan Leathers, security manager at Providence St. Mary.

More and more hospitals across the country are using security dogs to detect contraband, deter violence and help deal with possible threats. Walla Walla’s facility is one of four hospitals in Washington using the K-9 model, Leathers said.

Providence began its program in 2019 when coordinator Mike Smith left a career in law enforcement in Oregon to join hospital staff. Axel arrived on board about nine months later, and together the couple had a significant impact on improving safety there, Leathers said.

“The K-9 program is all about security, to protect everyone from violence. Sadly, it is true that healthcare, in general, poses the highest risk of workplace violence, with the exception of law enforcement. “

This hasn’t always been the case in Walla Walla, she said.

“I never thought that this moment would come. There was a time when the public respected doctors and nurses, and this has eroded over time. “

Community-wide stress has sprung from the COVID-19 pandemic, permeating all walks of life. People who struggle to cope and lack support can find themselves in situations of negative behavior.

Here, as elsewhere, the hospital has become the de facto emergency mental health center. It can attract people who are dangerous to themselves and to others, Leathers said.

In 2019, Axel was on his first night on the job when a man walked into St. Mary’s, filled with anger and using threatening behavior. He refused to leave the emergency room lobby, Smith recalls.

When Smith noticed that the man had hidden a pen in his sleeve, he assumed the intention was to try and hurt the dog with it. As the hall was empty, however, time was on his and Axel’s side. They could wait for the police to arrive.

Although in this case the angry man had to be pulled out at the threat of a Taser by the police, the victory was that Axel didn’t have to bite him, Smith explained.

“The point is not to take a bite; the aim is to dissuade.

In other cases, staff have been threatened with injury or death, Leathers said.

When such an offender sees an alert – and large – dog clearly awaiting an order from its master, “they back off,” she said.

Just walking Axel around the building is a visible reminder that the security measures are in place and ready to go. That alone can help keep the peace and make employees feel more secure, security staff agreed.

Thanks to a generous helping hand from the Providence St. Mary Foundation and a donation from an anonymous donor, the program was expanded this fall to purchase Mylo.

Mylo, born in June in Berlin, is a purebred German Shepherd whose lines of military and security dogs date back to the days of World War II, hospital spokeswoman Kathleen Obenland said, noting that the puppy was selected for his stability, focus and fearlessness.

Now just over 6 months old, Mylo’s native intelligence, keen curiosity and collaborative spirit are already emerging, said his teacher, Cole Smith, son of Mike Smith.

This can only bode well when Cole Smith and Mylo undergo specialized formal training next summer. In the meantime, Mylo’s supervisors expect that coming to the hospital to work on a regular schedule will help desensitize him to everyday sounds, smells and eyesight.

“Mylo will be used to everything in the hospital,” said Cole Smith, listing the sounds of wheelchairs in the hallways, the casters of large rattling carts, the hum of elevators and the rarely silent sound system.

In the emergency department, it is important that a security dog ​​can learn to absorb beeps and alarms from various monitors as background noise so that a high voice of anger becomes the center of attention in a potentially serious situation.

Life in the hospital includes acclimatizing to humans wearing face shields and operating clothes, and adjusting to one’s own vest.

“The first week, I was tracking him, and when I came back, the vest was off. Now he knows what it means when I put it on him, ”Cole Smith said.

Mike Smith agreed.

“We want him to know when the vest comes on, it’s time for work. When it kicks in, it’s time to relax, ”said Mike Smith.

Experts predict that the use of K-9 units in healthcare facilities will increase as violence in the healthcare industry increases, noted Paul Sarnese, president of the International Safety and Security Association. health care.

In a writing for the Journal of Healthcare Protection Management, Sarnese called security dogs a profitable and wise investment, each of which can work for eight to 10 years.

Research shows that facilities that have deployed K-9 units have seen a reduction in crime and violence. A trained dog can not only patrol outside a healthcare facility, but also in patient care and service areas, he wrote in 2016.

St. Mary’s new security guard is already earning an A-plus for having fun outside of work, Cole Smith said.

Mylo’s best friend is Benson, the house golden retriever. And he gets to mingle with Axel when the two working dogs aren’t on the clock.

The puppy is even tolerant of the new outfit his master has put on him for a Christmas photoshoot.

“He likes it,” insisted Cole Smith, circulating his phone showing pictures of a stoic Mylo wearing a Grinch costume trimmed with red fir and Benson wearing “Ho Ho Ho”. And the woods, of course.

This Christmas season will likely bring what every puppy wants, added Cole Smith.

“I’ve had all these caregivers asking me what kind of treats he would like. “

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