The San Diego Fire Department has introduced a program that pairs service dogs and chaplains with firefighters to provide emotional support for work-related trauma.
The program is the first of its kind in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reportedon Monday.
“It’s another resource that we can offer to our folks to cope with what they see day in and day out,” San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Colin Stowell said.
Bodie, a 2-year-old Labrador retriever, Ty, a 6-year-old mini goldendoodle, and Genoa, a 2-year-old Labrador retriever, will join the department’s ranks.
The canine and chaplain teams have completed more than 120 hours of training and will be retested every three months for their first year. The department currently employs 17 chaplains.
The teams help with other wellness efforts such as a peer support program and counseling services.
“There’s not one size that fits all when it comes to the mental health of our firefighters,” Stowell said.
Traumatic incidents from throughout a firefighter’s career can “trigger an acute response — or over the years, it builds up,” he said.
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