Providing comfort and resiliency one paw at a time

Providing comfort and resiliency one paw at a time

Belle, a therapy dog, regularly volunteers at the Eielson Air Force Base clinic, elementary school, USO and library. Belle earned her therapy dog certification after successfully completing special training and three evaluations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel)

Providing comfort and resiliency one paw at a time

Tessa, the 354th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) canine, assists the SAPR office in comforting victims of sexual assault. She is the first and only SAPR canine in the Air Force and promotes Eielson's 'One is too many" campaign. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassie Whitman)

Providing comfort and resiliency one paw at a time

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Austin Sukut, a 354th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician, plays with Belle, a therapy dog, at the USO Sept. 24, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. To earn her official therapy dog certification, Belle had to complete several special training courses and pass three evaluations. Belle also makes regular visits to the base clinic, elementary school and library. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassie Whitman)

Providing comfort and resiliency one paw at a time

Belle, a therapy dog, reads with her handle, Claire Robbins, and a child at the Eielson Library Feb. 25, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Belle volunteers once a month at the library with her reading program, Books with Belle, where children are able to build reading skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cassandra Whitman)

Providing comfort and resiliency one paw at a time

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, the 11th Air Force commander, meets with Tessa, the first Sexual Assault Prevention and Response dog, during a base visit March 31, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Beginning in the winter of 2016, the 5-month old Golden Retriever has already comforted seven victims, allowing the SAPR program to enhance its role around the 354th Fighter Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)

Providing comfort and resiliency one paw at a time

Eielson Air Force Base chief's hold up one finger in solidarity with Tessa, the 354th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program canine, for her campaign of "One is too many," May 9, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The campaign was started to show that one sexual assault is too many. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cassandra Whitman)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

Eielson Air Force Base has two furry friends that assist in different resiliency capacities. Tessa is Eielson’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program service dog and Belle is a therapy dog who visits different locations around the base. Through the combined efforts of these canine companions, the Icemen Team receives a welcome reprieve from their busy day, and if necessary, a friendly acquaintance to confide in.   

Each dog serves in a specific role to aid in raising morale throughout the Wing. In her short time at Eielson, Tessa has already helped several sexual assault victims come forward and receive assistance from the SAPR office; Belle visits with Airmen and their families at several different facilities each week, providing comfort and a break for each person who pets her. 

Tessa

Tessa is a SAPR canine in the Air Force. She is in a pilot program for assisting victims of sexual assault. Shellie Severa is Tessa’s owner and is also the 354th Fighter Wing’s head victim advocate. 

“Tessa is a certified service dog who specializes in assisting the SAPR program,” said Severa. “She is allowed to go anywhere I go when a victim reports an assault. She can enter court rooms, police stations and even hospitals.” 

Eielson’s campaign for sexual assault prevention is “One is too many.” Tessa is an advocate for this campaign, wearing the phrase on her service vest.

“The motto of ‘One is too many’ is a very important message to spread across the base,” said Severa.

All around base, Tessa can be seen with Severa in different shops and offices interacting with Airmen of all ranks. This helps spread her message as well as all of the services she provides. 

“Tessa is the Icemen’s dog,” said Severa. “She offers a pick-me-up for the Icemen when she visits and will always provide comfort for sexual assault victims who wish to have time with her.”

Belle

Belle is a therapy dog who visits several locations around base with her handler Claire Robbins.

“Our job is to share smiles and joy with everyone we meet,” said Robbins. “Belle instantly changes the energy of a room when she walks in.”

Belle is a certified therapy dog. To keep her certification, she makes visits with various people and places and has to get a health exam once a year.

The most frequent places Belle visits are the USO on base, the library for Books with Belle, Anderson Elementary School and the 354th Medical Group.

“Belle is a valued member of the Medical Group and helps make it a great place to care for each other and our patients,” said Col. William Fecke, the 354th MDG commander. “When Belle walks through the clinic, you see staff come out and interact outside their normal environments. They take a minute out of their day to slow down, relax, provide and receive affection from Belle.”

While Belle visits the elementary school on Friday’s to see the children, she is also in the process of establishing a reading program. She is a certified reading education assistance dog and can provide help for children who may need extra care when learning to read. 

“Belle comes into the school and immediately enriches our environment and makes it positive,” said Stacey Stansell, the principal at Anderson. “Most kids relate to pets and when they see Belle walk in, they are drawn to her. She goes into classrooms and reads with the kids, there are presentations given on Belle and they are able to share stories about their own pets. She opens up opportunities to build relationships with the kids.”

A key component to any Air Force base is resiliency. Belle helps Airmen improve their resiliency by being available for any shop or office to spend time with. 

“All of us love Belle and appreciate the comfort and affection she provides,” said Fecke. “She promotes teamwork and social connection as a non-judgmental listener.” 

Both of these dogs, though serving different purposes, bring comfort and joy to Icemen and their families. Sometimes, all you need is a little help from a furry friend. 

*Tessa is a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response canine. All reports of sexual assault need to be reported to Shellie Severa and the SAPR office.*