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Too friendly for drug busts...Labrador Dexter is now out on the well-being support beat

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 24/05/2022 Nicholas Cecil

Drugs detection dog Dexter who was “too friendly” has been taken off this beat and is now helping traumatised emergency service workers in London talk about their mental health.

The black Labrador is working as the Met’s first well-being and trauma support dog.

His handler PC Mike Sheather now visits police officers, firefighters, ambulance crews and hospitals across the capital to encourage people to talk about incidents that have led to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle with Dexter in Parliament (JESSICA TAYLOR/ UK PARLIAMENT) © Provided by Evening Standard Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle with Dexter in Parliament (JESSICA TAYLOR/ UK PARLIAMENT)

Dexter was brought into Parliament where Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle played ball with him.

He said: “Dexter is such a lovely, chilled dog; we could do with him in the Chamber – he would definitely be a calming influence on MPs.’”

PC Sheather, 55, an experienced officer with specialist mental health and trauma training, told of a “lightbulb moment” during the Covid pandemic when he saw the joy Dexter brought to frontline service workers who were dealing with fatalities from the virus.

He explained: “Just seeing cops and fightfighters roll around the floor, petting him, the smiles on their faces and the absolute joy and distraction that he brought, made me think that we need more of this, and that is how the Met Police ended up with a well-being and trauma support dog.”

He added: “While Dexter made a dismal drugs dog, because he is just too friendly, he is perfect in this role of getting people to open up.”

Police Federation research suggests that a frontline officer will encounter between 400 and 600 traumatic incidents over an entire career, compared to three or four for most members of the public.

PC Sheather, who suffered PTSD after seeing his colleague being shot in the arm and being shot at himself while chasing a burglar in Croydon in 2011, said it took him three years to seek medical support for the condition.

“PTSD sucks the life out of you,” said the father-of-two, who is based in Catford, southeast London.

“I was angry, irritable, and I wasn’t sleeping. I was carrying around a lot of shame, blame and guilt. If I hadn’t asked for help, I wouldn’t be here today.’”

Dexter, who has his own Twitter account @PD_DexterWBDOG, now leads a team of four trauma and well-being support dogs for the Met.

PC Sheather added: “If we can save one person from mental health distress, then I would say we have done a good day’s work.”

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