121st DPH enlists help of therapy dog

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Wendy Kuhn
  • 121st Air Refueling Wing

The 121st Air Refueling Wing has a new member! Murphy is a 7-year-old German Short-Haired Pointer and is a registered therapy dog through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. 

“When you see Murphy around the base, there is no need to ask to pet him,” said Jessie Burr, the 121st Air Refueling Wing Director of Psychological Health. “That is his sole mission!”

Murphy’s owner, Jessie Burr, is the Director of Psychological Health (DPH) at the 121st Air Refueling Wing. The primary role of the DPH is to assist Airmen in identifying their psychological health needs and provide recommendations and referrals for psychological concerns. The DPH can also provide short-term counseling to service members and their families.

When members first meet Murphy, they will most likely notice that he has some unique differences. “Murphy developed a fast-growing tumor on his eyelid in 2021 that resulted in him losing his left eye,” said Burr. “I think his resilience is a symbol of healing and perseverance through hard times, which is something we can all relate to.”

Murphy’s role at the 121st will be to help encourage conversations with the resiliency team, including the DPH, Chaplains, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Yellow Ribbon Specialist and Family Programs. He will be present during individual sessions, attend family events and serve as a general morale booster for the Wing.

Murphy completed his basic obedience training in 2021, and in 2023, he completed the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) Department Law Enforcement Dog Academy, receiving the distinction of Honor Graduate.

During basic obedience training, dogs are typically taught basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “leave it,” and how to walk on a leash. 

The FSCO training is a week-long academy with dogs from across the country assigned to police departments, correctional facilities, dispatch centers and fire stations. It incorporates agility training and desensitization to loud and unusual sounds, with a significant focus on holding commands with intense distractions, such as drones, helicopters, police cruisers running lights and sirens, and a visit to the Columbus Zoo. Murphy was the first therapy dog trained specifically for the military to graduate from the academy.

“I am hopeful that Murphy will encourage members and their dependents to talk with me and will help decrease the hesitation to have that first conversation,” said Burr. “I have witnessed firsthand as hard exteriors soften and faces brighten when members see him. I understand that making the connection with the DPH, especially the first time, carries a lot of emotions, and Murphy is here to make it easier for members to start that dialogue.”