By Stefanie Arcangelo, American Red Cross

Photo: Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross

Visiting a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) can create anxiety for a lot of families. Having just lost their homes, possessions and in some cases, loved ones, decisions that come with the road to recovery can be daunting.

That’s where Dickens comes in. Dickens is a seven-year-old pet therapy dog from HOPE

Stef and Dickens
Dickens the pet therapy dog gives hugs to help relieve stress and tension after a disaster.

Animal-Assisted Crisis Response. Dickens and his handler, Bill Clemons, were visiting the MARC in Deweyville, Texas after floods in Southeast Texas devastated the community.

“Our job is to help reduce the stress, anxiety and bewilderment of what just happened for these families,” said Clemons. “When Dickens comes in you can feel the exhale and release of tension in the room.”

Clemons and Dickens, along with other therapy dogs and handlers from HOPE, have been visiting the MARCs in Southeast Texas to help lower the anxieties of impacted families and provide a much needed distraction from their loss.

During his time at the Deweyville MARC, Clemons experienced a bit of a role reversal with Dickens when he noticed a woman sitting alone waiting for assistance.

“You could tell she wasn’t just physically alone, she was alone,” he said. “She looked like she had experienced a lifetime of floods.” Clemons walked Dickens up to her and asked if she wanted to see the dog. “She didn’t want to talk to the dog, she wanted to talk to a person and then I became the therapy dog.” Clemons stayed with her for a while and listened to her story. “By the end, there was hopefulness about her. You could tell she was looking forward.”