“So this is who we are now… yeah… this is who we are….”

Two years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy, a group of SHES teachers got together one evening to discuss what transpired on Friday, December 14th, 2012.  They spoke of the events that day.  Joe Quint was invited to share that time together.  He filmed their conversations, memories and thoughts.

As the 3rd anniversary approaches, watch each teacher’s strength and individual resilience.  The path to resilience is a personal one. Each teacher in their own time and in their own way.

Ann’s Place – Festival of Trees

During the holidays, helping our neighbors is am important aspect of our mission.  Ann’s Place (http://www.annsplace.org/festival-of-trees/) is a compassionate nonprofit serving Connecticut and Hudson Valley New York with professional counseling, support groups, wellness activities and educational resources. Hundreds come to them for support, all at no charge.

We at K9FR are honored and happy to support their premier event… The Festival of Trees.  This was a wonderful time for our teams to help spread smiles and the joy of the season. Tis the reason….

K9 Ben K9 Socs K9 Bear

What is “resilience”?


What is resilience?

Resilience is generally thought of as a “positive adaptation” after a stressful or adverse situation. In other words, resilience is one’s ability to bounce back from a negative experience. Individuals and communities are able to rebuild their lives even after devastating tragedies.

Being resilient doesn’t mean going through life without experiencing stress and pain. People feel grief, sadness, and a range of other emotions after adversity and loss. The road to resilience lies in working through the emotions and effects of stress and painful events.

Resilience is also not something that you’re either born with or not. Resilience develops as people grow up and gain better thinking and self-management skills and more knowledge. Resilience also comes from supportive relationships with parents, peers and others, as well as cultural beliefs and traditions that help people cope with the inevitable bumps in life.  Resilience is found in a variety of behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed across the life span.

Factors that contribute to resilience include:

  • Close relationships with family and friends
  • A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • The ability to manage strong feelings and impulses
  • Good problem-solving and communication skills
  • Feeling in control
  • Seeking help and resources
  • Seeing yourself as resilient (rather than as a victim)
  • Coping with stress in healthy ways and avoiding harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse
  • Helping others
  • Finding positive meaning in your life despite difficult or traumatic events

K9 First Responders often meet people when they are overcome with emotion after a horrific event or tragedy.  We work to help re-establish one’s emotional and cognitive equilibrium.  The sooner a person is able to process, assess and decide their next steps, better the chances of resiliency being seen sooner than later.

A interesting podcast may be found at: http://tinyurl.com/kudqf6c

Atyia Martin is Boston’s first chief resilience officer…

We congratulate Ms. Martin on her new job.  K9FR partnered with Ms. Martin in her role as Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness at the Boston Health Commission.  We look forward to our continued relationship.  Read more about her exciting new role at the link below.

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Inevitable change…


Those who fight monsters inevitably change. Because of all that they see and do, they lose their innocence, and a piece of their humanity with it. If they want to survive, they begin to adopt some of the same characteristics as the monsters they fight. It is necessary. They become capable of rage, and extreme violence.

There is a fundamental difference, however. They keep those monster tendencies locked away in a cage, deep inside. That monster is only allowed out to protect others, to accomplish the mission, to get the job done…..Not for the perverse pleasure that the monsters feel when they harm others. In fact, those monster tendencies cause damage…guilt, isolation, depression, PTSD.

There is a cost for visiting violence on others when you are not a monster. Those who do so know one thing…The cost inflicted upon society as a whole is far greater without those who fight monsters. That is why they are willing to make that horrible sacrifice so that others may live peaceably. Before you judge one of us, remember this… We witness things that humans aren’t meant to see…and we see them repeatedly.

We perform the duties that you feel are beneath you. We solve your problems… Often by visiting violence upon others. We run towards the things that you run away from. We go out to fight what you fear. We stand between you, and the monsters that want to damage you. You want to pretend that they don’t exist, but we know better. We do the things that you are too soft, too weak, too cowardly to do. Your life is more peaceful…..because of us.

The current political climate in this country holds that there is nothing worth fighting for. Submission is the popular mantra. Warriors are decried, denigrated, and cast as morally inferior. We know how childish, how asinine, and how cowardly that mindset is. We know this…..There ARE things worth fighting, and dying for.

We know that not every problem can be solved through rational discourse…that some problems can only be solved through the application of force and violence. And, while we do prefer the former….we are perfectly capable of the latter. We believe that fighting what others fear is honorable, noble, and just….and are willing to pay the price for that deeply held belief.

Why? For us, it isn’t a choice… It is what we are. We are simply built that way.

The Trauma Train…


You witness or are involved in a horrific event.  You may not realize it but someone is yelling “All Aboard… the Trauma Train is now leaving the station”.  Not knowing it, you have a ticket to ride.  A window seat on the Critical Incident Stress Express.

Psychological Trauma starts the moment an event occurs.  Your emotions, thoughts, feelings etc. start rolling like that train. Moving along, picking up speed… going faster and faster.  You feel overwhelmed and out of control.

How do we stop, or at least slow down, the Trauma Train? Keep it from getting to a place you don’t want to be.

K9 First Responders (K9FR) are not psychotherapists. Psychotherapy identifies and changes the thought and behavior patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best.

K9FR teams work to prevent change from occurring in the first place. Or at least, slow change until a connection is made to additional mental health support.

Psychological First Aid (PFA) and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are tools we use to prevent change.  The picture above shows there are different options for a train to travel. K9FR Teams help the Trauma Train move off the main line to a side track and idle.

Boston – Learn more about K9FR

K9FR is hosting a “Meet & Greet” for the greater Boston Area on Thursday, Sept. 24th @ 7 PM at:

Suite 4100
1 Canal Park
Cambridge, MA 92141


Learn about what we do and how we do it.  Meet some of our coordinators.  You do not have to own a dog to attend.  Volunteer support personnel help with logistics and operations which does not require a dog.

This is open to the public but RSVP is required. RSVP no later than Tuesday, Sept. 22nd via e-mail to k9fr@k9fr.org

Hope to see you there!

How K9FR dogs do it?

Trust between a handler and dog is the cornerstone of our teams’ effectiveness.  This translates into effective teamwork.

What we do...

10 steps that will help a handler and dog develop a sense of trust and security:

1 > Socializing the dog at an early age is critical, but it’s also important to keep exposing him/her to all sorts of people and dogs throughout his lifetime.

2 > Taking the dog out to different places and exposing him/her to all sorts of situations helps the dog develop confidence and adaptability. The more restricted the animal’s world, the more he’ll be likely to feel anxious when small changes occur in his environment.

3 > Desensitizing the dog to anything that we notice he/she can be afraid of. Avoiding a fearful situation instead of working on it can result in the dog generalizing the fear to other areas. The reverse is also true. Overcoming a fear in one area can help the dog generalize to another area.

4 > Avoiding punishing the dog through the use of aversives. There are many effective ways to diminish unwanted behaviors without scaring or hurting the dog.

5 > Engaging the dog’s mind. When the dog applies himself to processing information, whether through training (like in shaping) or any activity that requires him to think, he’s less likely to be focused on his anxiety.

6 > Developing our own confidence as a handler. Since dogs are very sensitive to our emotions, it’s important to display a calm and confident attitude.

7 > Respecting thresholds. When we push the dog through his thresholds where he’ll be likely to experience the unpleasant emotion again and again, we’re also sensitizing him to the situation, thus making that emotion more likely to occur in the future.

8 > Allowing the dog to get out of fearful situations. Providing the dog with a place to hide or to move away from something scary is critical so the fear can subside. In the same way, standing up for the dog, interfering with a person or dog about to invade his space also allows the dog to feel safe as you’re watching out for him.

9 > Avoiding overprotecting the dog. This may seem like the opposite of the previous point, but we can go too far in trying to protect the dog and if we’re anxious ourselves of the outcomes of certain interactions, we can trigger or contribute to the dog’s anxiety. Simply tightening the leash a little may very well set your dog on alert.

10 > Developing patience. If we’re pushy or frustrated, the dog is likely to build up anxiety and become resistant or shut down. Patience is essential to allow the dog to process the information presented in front of him.

Stress, anxiety and fear play a critical part in the wellbeing of our animals as they do in our own lives. Applying ourselves to reducing the opportunities for those emotions to develop may make the difference in the dog’s welfare. We can all benefit from reducing those emotions in our life. It’s not always easy to be mindful of what affects our dog’s emotions as well as our own, but the more we apply ourselves to it, the easier it gets, for the benefit of all.

Jennifer Cattet Ph.D

What are the signs of post traumatic stress in adolescents?

What are the signs of post traumatic stress in adolescents?

Post traumatic stress in adolescents is commonly the same as adults and middle school. Retelling the story over and over again, or someone saying they’re feeling tense all the time. Temperature deregulation. Either they’re extremely hot, or extremely cold; there’s nothing in the middle. Manic signs, where a person’s mood changes. It’s up and then it’s down. Other signs can be giving their possessions away, which are signs of suicide. Signs of depression as well. Things that are persistent, that are just not going away. What I usually tell people is that after an event, it’s okay to have the butterflies, as long as they are all flying in the same direction. As soon as they start to collide, then maybe we need some long-term help.

This video clip is part of the series “Mental Health During A School Crisis“.

Michael Dorn and Sonayia Shepherd (School Safety Analysts) gives expert video advice on: What is a school “crisis intervention team”?;  What steps should a school take to minimize trauma in a crisis?;  What are some common responses after a school crisis? and more…