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Carol Janssens: Growing the K-9 Action Team (K.A.T.) Program Across the Country

In 2006, I was deployed as a Red Cross volunteer to a flooding crisis, and I took my therapy dog Windy with me. Everywhere we went, in the shelters, in the areas we provided hot meals and assistance to people who had lost their homes—even the Red Cross office—Windy was welcomed by everyone. We were repeatedly asked to return. The Red Cross workers wanted her there as much as the people we were helping!

Windy’s journey to becoming a certified therapy dog began with my lupus diagnosis. Windy was not my first service dog, but the first to travel anywhere with me. Everyone wanted to pet her and she loved the attention. When I decided to certify her as a therapy dog, I also thought she would provide amazing comfort in a disaster response. Once a certified therapy dog, I went on to certify Windy for a disaster team through Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response. This organization was instrumental in encouraging me to get involved with the Red Cross.

As a Red Cross volunteer, I specialize in coordinating shelter to help people who have lost their homes. Windy was with me as my service dog at five shelters and when she retired I took on Joy as a new service dog. To date, Joy has provided comfort to people in crisis in 11 shelters.

During my biggest deployment, the Washington Landslide disaster, many dog organizations contacted the Red Cross to ask if they could bring in “comfort dogs.” I realized there was a great need for dog handlers who were also trained for the Red Cross. I then connected Red Cross volunteer, Kathy Miller, who started K.A.T. with her service dog Gus in Ohio. We discovered we had a shared experience and we both knew first hand how exceptionally helpful dogs can be to people during disasters. We are grateful for Kathy’s vision and the additional comfort we can provide when it’s needed most. We are now in the process of growing the K.A.T. program for Snohomish County and hope you’ll join us!

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