Golden Retriever Therapy Dog Offers Hugs To Firefighters Tackling California Wildfires
A beautiful golden retriever has been providing therapy for the brave firefighters currently tackling the California wildfires.
As a certified crisis response therapy dog, Kerith has provided comfort and hugs to the firefighters of Northern California’s Marin County for more than a year. And with a face like that, how could you not want to hug her.
Prior to the pandemic, the dog, deemed ‘too friendly’ for guide dog work by her owner, would visit each of the Marin County firehouses, giving unconditional love to firefighters after difficult shifts, and making a real difference to their mental health and well-being.
After the pandemic struck, Kerith was no longer able to visit the firehouses, and she reportedly greatly missed hanging out with her firefighter pals, SFGate reports.
After some months had passed, Kerith eventually got permission to begin visiting firefighters outdoors, with strict social distancing measures in place.
Now, in the wake of fierce wildfires, Kerith’s important services are needed more than ever, with the Marin County battalion chief allowing Kerith to head to the Woodward staging area at the Bear Valley Visitors Center on the morning of Friday, August 21.
Kerith reportedly walked with her owner Heidi Carmen, greeting her firefighter pals in between their daily briefings. Carmen even gave the firefighters trading cards of Kerith, so they could feel her presence while on duty.
Carmen told SFGate:
She doesn’t know there is a fire. She doesn’t know there is COVID. So she just knew she was seeing her friends and was really happy to do so. For the firefighters, I think it really made their day.
One firefighter from central Marin said, ‘This was the best base camp ever because Kerith was there.’
A GoFundMe page has now been set up to support Kerith in her mission to provide invaluable services to more than 400 Marin County firefighters.
Funding will reportedly cover Kerith’s direct time with the firefighters, as well as transportation costs, which will allow her to get to where she is most needed.
As well as visiting fire stations, Kerith will also be on call for critical incident stress debriefings, and will be available to support crews at wildfire basecamps.
According to the page:
Day after day, firefighters and other first responders risk their lives for people they have never met. In one twenty-four hour shift, this population may be exposed to any number of traumatic events, from wildfires they can’t control, to patients they can’t save.
Although these men and women are incredibly strong, everyone needs support from time to time, and when dealing with trauma, and individuals exposed to trauma, we know that sometimes indirect and grounding support, as well as social contact, can be a very effective aid to treatment for people who have gone through some of the realities outlined above that many of us cannot imagine.
The description continues:
Enter Team Kerith, the Golden Retriever, certified crisis response therapy dog and her handler, Heidi Carman. Through their volunteer work at Marin Health Medical Center’s Emergency Department, Kerith (a Guide Dog for the Blind career changed Golden Retriever) found her true calling.
She provides unconditional love and instant stress relief to first responders. She forms bonds with the firefighters by simply being herself: she greets with playful wiggles, adoring eye contact, and makes each person she meets feel important, special, and loved.
The experience that Kerith is able to provide can be invaluable to individuals suffering from PTSD symptomology.
According to Kerith’s GoFundMe page, therapy dogs help to address the stigma surrounding mental health for first responders, while bringing many mental and physical health benefits.
These benefits include releasing hormones that can elevate a person’s mood, lowering anxiety and feelings of loneliness, as well as mental stimulation. They can also help to lower blood pressure and improve a person’s cardiovascular health.
You can contribute to Kerith’s GoFundMe here.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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