By Carmela Burke, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross

Cartoonist and Snoopy creator Charles Schulz said, “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Indeed, that warmth walked right through the doors at the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) in Kountze, TX in the form of a furry team from HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response (AACR).  During the weekend of November 7-8, families who suffered flood damage from severe weather in October were able to meet with representatives from several agencies—including American Red Cross caseworkers–to find out the steps needed to bring some kind of normalcy to their already stressful situation.

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Human interaction was supplemented with interaction from “man’s best friend.”  Called to duty were Sarah, Riley, Izzy and the rest of the team from HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response (AACR).  Attention quickly diverted to the dogs who drew out smiles from just about everyone at the MARC.  The agency is a national all-volunteer, non-profit, crisis response organization with specially trained handlers and canines. Agencies call upon HOPE AACR teams to provide comfort and support to children and adults affected by disasters.

The HOPE team is the only AACR group that is a member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).  They have partnered with the American Red Cross in other disaster relief operations including the September 2015 Butte and Valley Wildfires Northern California.

Red Cross disaster mental health professionals meet with families affected by disasters that can range from a home fire to tornadoes and floods.  Red Cross workers focus on alleviating emotional distress, and supporting resiliency and positive coping skills in the scope of response, recovery and preparedness.  They provide crisis intervention, education and referrals to local community programs. To find out more about volunteer opportunities:

Science has shown that animals are a positive factor in helping people handle traumatic events.

Canines are popular visitors to shelters, disaster recovery centers and other places where their presence often lightens a tense and hectic environment. Many find solace in merely saying hello to a furry friend.  Photographer and writer Roger Caras said, “ Dogs are not our whole life, but they make us whole.”

To that, we say, “Woof!”