For nearly four decades, Jeanne Dague has been helping sheriff’s deputies and Central Coast residents alike as a 911 dispatcher. Dague is the San Luis Obispo County’s Sheriff’s Office’s longest-serving employee, and on Wednesday, she celebrated her 38th year with the agency.
Dague started in the Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy in 1976 and considered becoming a deputy, before ultimately deciding against it. But she loved being in the field and interacting with people in the community, so in 1979, she became a dispatcher.
“To me, it’s a rewarding field because you do help people,” Dague said. “If you give CPR over the phone and it works, it’s a great feeling to know you helped save someone’s life. Even on the law enforcement side, if there’s a burglary or something that someone walks in on, getting the deputies there as quickly as we can and being able to tell the victim that they have those people in custody is good for the victim.”
Most of her work is serious business, but over the course of her career, Dague has taken a few quirky calls along the way. She recalled one in particular from nearly 23 years ago.
During the Highway 41 Fire in 1994, as 911 calls were pouring in, Dague picked up a call from a small boy in Nipomo.
“He said, ‘Help, my guinea pig is stuck in the dollhouse,’” she recalled.
“I said, ‘Well, we can’t send a deputy to help you because they’re all trying to help people with this fire and I can’t send a fireman to help you.’” She asked if he had tried using a screwdriver. He had, and the pet was still stuck. So she asked if his next-door neighbor was home.
“He said, ‘Yes. Think so.’ And I said, ‘Run next door and see if your neighbor can help you and call me back if that doesn’t work,’” she said. The boy didn’t call back.
“When you’re at that heightened stress with all the 911 calls about the fire and then to get that type of call it just, oh, brought me back down to reality there,” she said with a laugh.
Throughout her tenure as a dispatcher, Dague has seen a lot of changes come to the Sheriff’s Office, especially with the technology dispatchers now use.
But through it all, service to the community and being there in a time of need is still the overarching mission.
When asked what the most rewarding part of her job is, Dague said, “helping the people we are dealing with, some of them on the worst day of their lives, and letting them know we do have compassion for them and are here to help them any way we can.”