Bassett Medical Center introduced its first K-9 security team — Hudson the dog and Security Officer Robert Meiser — to the public July 15.
Four-year-old Hudson is a Belgian Malinois. These dogs are known for strong work ethic and often work alongside police officers, according to the American Kennel Club.
Harold Southworth, director of Public Safety and Transportation, said in a Bassett Healthcare Network media release that Meiser and Hudson have been on the road to introduce the K-9 team and its role at each of the five hospitals in the Bassett Healthcare Network, as well as the dozens of health centers throughout the eight-county region Bassett serves.
“The presence of a K-9 team is shown to be extremely effective in promoting safety,” said Southworth in the release, who along with Andrew Zuk, manager of Security Operations, led the development of the K-9 program. “Hudson is extremely intelligent and adaptable to the moment."
Hudson, who had previous law enforcement training, has been working at the hospital since June 10 after completing six weeks of additional obedience and tracking training. His duties include providing a calming presence in highly charged situations, comforting children in the emergency department and tracking down patients that may have wandered off, using the scent of their clothing.
Hudson has gotten very positive responses so far, Meiser said, and he's very good at switching gears, given the varying nature of his responsibilities. Though he's not a therapy dog, he's been a hit with children in the emergency room who almost forget about their troubles once they see Hudson, Meiser said.
Hudson, who wears a bullet- and stab-proof vest, also adds an extra layer of safety and security to the hospital.
"I have visitors and patients walk up to me all the time and say, 'Wow, it is great to see him here in the hospital, we feel so much safer knowing he's here,'" Meiser said. "Their sense of security is so much higher than what we can offer as humans."
In addition to the K-9 team, Bassett’s security department consists of 61 security officers who staff five hospitals and various regional health centers, acting as a reassuring presence and resource for staff, patients and visitors, according to the release. They respond to emergencies and are the network’s liaison with area law enforcement.
Hudson, who lives with Meiser when he's off the clock, is also a great family pet and Meiser's daughter has taken a particular fondness to the pup, Meiser said. Hudson likes to cuddle and gets along well with other animals, he said.
"He is just excellent," Meiser said. "When he gets home, he turns off his work mode and goes to family mode."
Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.