By MultiCare Health System
K-9 security officer Josh Wright and K-9 officer Odin were patrolling another unit when the call came.
A patient in the MultiCare Auburn Emergency Department had become aggressive and tackled a nurse. Three people, including a firefighter who happened to be around, worked to restrain the patient, and they were starting to struggle.
When Odin turns the corner, he quickly assesses the situation and makes his presence known with a loud “WOOF!”
Everyone stops what they’re doing. The patient looks up.
“What’s the dog for?” the patient asked.
“To calm down situations like this,” Wright responded.
Odin is a 2-year-old Dutch Shepherd. Still a pup, Odin will grow to be about 80 pounds. He’s a certified K-9, trained to distract in tense situations, alleviate aggression and detect narcotics. Odin and Wright patrol the Auburn and Covington medical centers.
Odin is one of two K-9 security officers at MultiCare – the other is stationed at MultiCare Allenmore hospital.
“MultiCare wanted a dog to deter people from bringing drugs into the hospital,” Wright said. “They also wanted a dog that is calm enough to interact with children in a hospital situation. He’s a good working dog, but honestly, he’s as much as a morale dog for patients and employees.”
The two have been together for only a few weeks but have already shown impressive results. Emergency Department nurses report fewer incidents of drugs in the hospital, fewer worries about needle sticks when treating patients, and less outward aggression toward staff.
“I love Odin,” said Bret Percival, ED charge nurse. “In the few weeks that he’s been here, I’ve noticed a change in the tone around here. The incidents of drugs in the Emergency Department are way down.”
As a bonus, the K-9 and Wright have helped one other grow on several levels.
Wright joined MultiCare a year ago, starting as a security guard, and quickly moved up the ranks before applying to be the K-9 handler. Wright and Odin live and work together and train every day.
Odin learns discipline and builds on his training. Wright learns patience and compassion.
“You can learn so much from an animal,” he said. “He helps me be more patient at work and with my kids.”
Wright appreciates the discipline necessary in a successful K-9 unit relationship. Wright served in the U.S. Army for 10 years. He deployed to Afghanistan from 2011–2012.
“It was a rough transition for me to move into the civilian world,” he said. “I saw stuff that no human being should ever see.”
Wright says that a series of traumatic childhood events simmered over the years to create an adult full of rage and resentment. Eventually, he came to a crossroads: Stay on a path of self-destruction or forge a new trail. He took a turn and joined the Army.
“I was able to focus on something other than that rage,” he said.
After he was discharged from the Army, Wright had trouble adjusting to the world around him. He says he had built so many mental barriers, he felt that nothing mattered any more.
“I hate to say it, but I was at a level of suicidal depression,” he said.
He reached out to a friend, also former military, to call for help. He got it. Wright found a straight-talking therapist who helped him break through the barriers he’d built over a lifetime.
“She told me to stop blaming others for my childhood and take accountability for my own actions,” Wright said. “Talking it out with her, I stopped feeling so trapped in my own body.”
Wright said he now feels free to be himself and to allow others into his heart. During their patrols, Wright always stops to chat with elders or anyone who seems burdened.
Odin has become part of Wright’s large family, which includes Wright’s girlfriend and her three children: Alexis, 16; Jack, 13; and Cherry, 5. Wright’s son Kayden, 13, comes around often. Roxy, a boxer/pitbull mix, rounds out the happy household.
On the job
“How you doin’, boy?”
Wright and Oden walk into the Emergency Department, stopping to say hello. The nurses smile and give Odin a quick ear scratch as they chat with Wright about cases Odin could help with. Wright leads Odin to the end of the hall to sit outside the room where a young child sits. Police were called to his school after the boy became overly aggressive.
Odin sits quietly, watching over the boy as doctors perform the examination and ask questions. Meanwhile, EMTs and police bring in a man who claimed he swallowed a bag of heroin. After he’s transferred from the gurney to a bed, and securely handcuffed, Odin checks the man for any drugs. He gives the “all clear” with a slight snort.
“What better job could I ask for than one where I can take my best friend to work?” Wright said.