While many Wimmera residents have learned the benefits of having pets in the workplace this year - while working from home - the region's police have not.
For the past month, Horsham's sergeants, constables and detectives have been having their days brightened by Indie, the 11-week-and-two-month-old puppy that is the first member of the station's Pets in the Workplace trial.
The trial is the brainchild of First Constable Jade Spence, Indie's owner, and follows a particularly tough year for Horsham Police.
"It came about to raise morale in the workplace: Coronavirus definitely (played a part), but also what happened on the Eastern Freeway in Melbourne where four police officers were tragically killed," she said.
"That affected all of Victoria Police: We're one big family. Also the tragic passing of Leading Senior Constable Heath Martin (who died by suicide) at the start of the year took a toll on the station.
"I saw a trial happening on the facebook page of the Monash Police Service Area (in Melbourne's southeast), so we were in touch with the senior sergeant there about it. Together with Inspector Di Thomson and senior sergeants Tracy Johnston and Leigh Creasey, I put up a plan to get it started.
"You put your name down on a roster and what unit you're from and send an email to let everyone working that day to know there's a pet in the workplace."
Indie's mother, Poppy, is owned by another Horsham officer, Senior Constable Andrew Gardiner.
Sergeant Ben Sleep said having pets in the workplace had had the desired effect on staff morale.
"It seems to work better on the night shift between 11pm and 7am," he said. "A few crew members have brought dogs in and it makes the environment more inclusive. It's become a bonding thing and it lifts the spirits."
In 2012, a study by an American university showed employees with dogs in their workplaces experienced less stress than those in workplaces without dogs.
In 2018, an Australian study found emergency services employees and volunteers were more than twice as likely to experience high or very high psychological distress compared to adults in the general population.
Mildura and Swan Hill Police stations and Ambulance Victoria have similar pet initiatives taking place.
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