First responders are under an incredible amount of stress. According to The Malinois Foundation, “An estimated 30 percent of first responders develop depression, stress, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health consequences.” First responders include workers in different fields. From firefighters and police, to paramedics, EMS, search and rescue, and more. Enter Massachusetts Comfort Dogs.
According to First Responder Therapy Dogs, these dogs definitely have a calming effect. Their presence helps reduce blood pressure and stress. They also help with improving mood and allowing responders to focus on communities they serve. Also very important is the fact that they will be receiving care themselves. First Responder Therapy Dogs has 120 therapy dog teams serving first responders in 27 states, including Massachusetts.
The Malinois Foundation, First Responders reports some specific ways these dogs help. Benefits include: reducing depression, reducing flashbacks, and reducing suicidal thoughts.
Therapy and comfort dogs are a huge help to first responders. I have also seen them used in many other community spaces. They visit schools, libraries, senior centers, veterans groups, and more. Comfort dogs bring calm and peace wherever they go.
To become a certified first responder therapy dog, both dog and handler go through extensive training. At Paws For Life K9 Rescue, they “combine the dog’s innate abilities to provide comfort with a stringent training schedule to learn 25 commands. This training process ensures the dog can be safely taken to any scene, and provide comfort, consolation and support regardless of environmental changes.”
Dogs and handlers must be prepared to walk into the most stressful and traumatic situations imaginable. They’ve been sent to locations like the mass shootings in Uvalde, TX, Sandy Hook, the Pulse Nightclub, and more.
Here in Massachusetts, more and more fire, police, and other first responders are getting comfort dogs. Enjoy!