Margaret Griffo and her Keeshond, Waverly are a certified National Crisis Response Canines team, answering calls for situations that need the comforting presence a dog provides. Margaret says Waverly has a profound effect on people in crisis, breaking the ice and allowing for professional help where it was formerly rejected. We asked Margaret what inspired her to serve with Waverly, and she gave us her story.
“When 9/11 happened, I found out about a lady who responded with her Keeshond,” Margaret says, “I had recently gotten Waverly to do therapy work, but I knew I wanted to do something more.” Margaret is also involved with the Alaska Police & Fire Chaplains. “I reached out and contacted the lady, Cindy Ehlers, and started asking her how she came to do what she does with her dog, Tikva. We developed an email relationship, and she connected me with the National Crisis Response Canines. That’s where we got our start.”
Margaret and Waverly performed long-distance training with the National group, and brought with them 5 additional dog/owner teams. The training took a year, but that small group became the first Crisis Canines for Alaska! Three years later, the Alaska Crisis Response Canines is a booming, local mentorship program with over 20 volunteers.
The mission of the Crisis Canines is to “harness the power of the human-canine bond to inspire resiliency and recovery in individuals affected by crisis, trauma, or disaster and the responders who help them.” That “human-canine bond” is highly effective in the field. Margaret says, “We have had so many moments of connection during tough times, where people have opened up for us to listen because of the dog. Most people in crisis get agitated and withdraw–the last thing they want to do is talk. We come in with a dog, and the dog seeks them out. They start to talk because the dog has broken the ice. The dog facilitates interaction and psychological first-aid because he makes people feel safe, normal, and he doesn’t judge. He just loves and makes them feel better.”
You can find Margaret and Waverly frequenting the Ted Stevens International Airport, University of Alaska Anchorage campus, and anywhere they are requested to provide a comforting support!