SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The dispatch center at the Scottsdale Police Department has welcomed a new dog to its unit in hopes of lowering stress, promoting relaxation and encouraging camaraderie.
"Some of the dispatchers and I were sitting around talking about how nice it is to go home and our pets are there and they're so happy to see us, and how cool would it be if we could have a pet at work," explained Catherine Salazar, communications supervisor.
Salazar said she started doing research on the benefits of having animals in the workplace. After about a year and a half, the department was approved to get a dog.
In January, the department adopted Poppy, a 2-year-old terrier mix.
"She's actually funded by the Communications Division; no city money goes toward her. We've had supervisors pay for her vet bill and supervisors that have paid for her licensing and her vaccinations," Salazar said. "Dispatchers have assisted with providing beds and leashes and collars and things like that for her, and her food, so it's been really cool. It's just a group effort."
They've dubbed Poppy a "S.M.A.R.T." dog, which stands for Stress Management and Relaxation for Telecommunicators.
"We're talking to people on the worst day of their lives and when you handle calls like that, day in and day out, it gets pretty stressful," Salazar said. "Dispatchers will kind of seek her out and say, 'okay I'm going to take the dog for a walk,' and that's kind of their excuse to get out of the room and decompress a little after a bad call. So she's really stepped up to her task in doing that."
Poppy lives at the dispatch center full time. There are beds for her under desks and she has her own "Poppy Pod" where her crate, food, and toys are.
Salazar said Poppy helps with more than just stress relief; she also brings the team together.
"Sometimes she'll be silly and she'll get the zoomies and she runs around the room and everybody's laughing and everybody comes together," she said.
Poppy is not certified as a service dog but Salazar said she already seems to know where she's needed.
"She'll make the rounds. She'll sit with this person, then an hour later she'll go and sit with that person. She's basically just our pet."
Salazar said Poppy is the first dispatch center dog in the Valley, but she said she wouldn't be surprised if other agencies followed suit.