The Crisis Relief Canines of Camp Susquehanna

Posted on Sep 8, 2022 in Camp, Program

This year, Burn Prevention Network invited the National Crisis Response Canines back to Camp Susquehanna for the seventh summer in a row. National Crisis Response Canines is a nonprofit organization that trains and certifies canine-handler teams to work in crisis environments and identify/provide comfort to those affected by trauma or emotional distress. Burn injuries leave a traumatic impact on survivors’ lives, but with help from NCRC, our campers receive the necessary support that allows them to enjoy their time at camp calm and stress-free.

Canine-handler teams undergo heavy psychological first aid and canine training before receiving their certification. They must be able to feel comfortable and work in any environment regardless of any sights, sounds, or smells—something regular therapy dogs can’t do. A canine was assigned to each age group of campers and the dog stuck with them all day, every day. Campers are busy participating in different activities in various locations throughout the day, so it’s important that when a camper needs assistance, the canine can work quickly and efficiently.

Peer group activities are challenging for many campers due to body image issues resulting from their injury. Most burn survivors struggle with insecurities caused by burn scars, and wearing active clothing items like t-shirts, shorts, and swimsuits can leave campers feeling anxious and vulnerable out of fear that someone will comment about their appearance. When a camper is in distress, the canines serve as a buffer between stress and stressor, giving them space to ground themselves and regulate their emotions without judgment.

“When a human touches or pets a canine, their body automatically releases oxytocin and serotonin. It’s a chemical reaction. You can’t stop it. That connection that they make with the canine is immediate because there is no asking or demanding on the canine’s part,” said Cindi Stone, dog trainer and owner of Absolutely Positive Canine and member of NCRC. “The canine’s not saying, ‘Tell me your story.’ The canine is not saying, ‘I want to know what happened.’ The canine is not judging any comments that are coming out of their mouth. The canine is purely taking in. And it’s doing it with no judgment, no restrictions.”

Over the years, we’ve built a strong, caring, and accepting community at Camp Susquehanna, but sometimes campers need a little extra support. The National Crisis Response Canines have provided them with love and comfort that only a canine can.

To learn more about National Crisis Response Canines, visit their website.