Therapy dogs trained specifically for crisis situations provide support in Moscow

SPOKANE, Wash. — There are a lot of therapy services that have been deployed in Moscow to provide support for the students and staff this week. The dogs offering service is part of a unique organization of only 300 dogs nationwide, HOPE AACR (Animal Assisted Crisis Response).

One of those special members, Bella, lives in our own area. She’s a therapy dog, but not just any therapy dog. She’s specifically trained to respond in crisis situations.

Bella and Bob Brandkamp belong to HOPE AACR. The mission of the organization is to provide comfort and encouragement to people that have gone through a crisis or disaster-type event.

“Handlers are also trained to recognize psychological symptoms that might be present at a crisis event,” explained Brandkamp, Bella’s owner. They’ve both been trained to engage with people following a crisis situation.

Bella has plenty of experience under her vest, too. She was at the Freeman High School shooting, mudslides on the west side of the state, and last May, they traveled down to Boulder, Colorado following the mass shooting at a supermarket.

“It kind of creates this bridge that then allows them to open up and process and kind of start that journey of being able to deal with whatever situation they’ve just come out of,” explained Brandkamp.

Bella responds to crisis events like what happened in Moscow, but she also keeps a busy schedule in the Spokane area.

“We visit hospice patients once a week, we also visit the Ronald McDonald house one night a week. Then she is also a customer engagement specialist with Avista and she goes out and we do community events and safety presentations,” added Brandkamp.

Bella is headed to Moscow, Tuesday, November 29th to provide services for students and staff at the University of Idaho.

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