‘He’s just special’: Meet Hunter, a therapy dog helping local first responders manage stress

DAYTONA BEACH SHORES, Fla. — This Christmas will mark one year since the Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department lost an officer.

Hunter, a therapy dog with the department, helps first responders manage stress that comes with the job.


“He’s just a wonderful dog,” said Chief Stephan Dembinsky. “Even if they have a bad day on the street or get into something that’s stressful and they come here and play with him for a couple minutes, they’re relaxed.”

Firefighters said Hunter brings joy to everyone.

It’s nice having him around the station,” firefighter Jodie Stafford said.

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Hunter is a station dog that lives there 24/7. The department got him nearly a year ago.

The chief said he has made a huge impact.

“He’s changed the mood of my agency,” Dembinsky said. “He’s brought our morale from zero back to 100.”

A morale boost they desperately needed after the agency suffered a devastating loss.

“Last Christmas day, we lost a young officer tragically and my department was devastated. We honestly, it was like the end of the world for us,” Dembinsky said.

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Soon after, K9s for Warriors donated Hunter to the department.

Greg Wells with K9s For Warriors said there’s a growing trend of emotional support animals at law enforcement agencies.

“The idea behind it is to kind of mitigate signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, stuff like that, before they really start to hit our first responders,” Wells said.

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K9s For Warriors has placed nine station dogs across Florida.

“We’re extremely proud to have this dog,” Dembinsky said.

Dembinsky said he can’t imagine a workday without Hunter.

“He’s just special. I can’t see a day when I wouldn’t want to come in to see him,” Dembinsky said.

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