Local first responders will soon have a four-legged method of coping with high-stress calls.
American Medical Response of Southwest Washington has been training Apollo, a 7-month-old brown labradoodle, as a therapy dog. The ambulance service provider hopes Apollo can earn a therapy dog certification and begin responding to calls next year.
AMR’s National Therapy Dog Team formed in the wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting as first responders continue searching for ways to cope with emotional stress. Dogs have responded to several mass incidents since then, most recently the shooting in El Paso, Texas.
Apollo is the 13th member of the program, which now involves 21 canines. He is also the first to be stationed on the West Coast.
Therapy dog visits can reduce blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety while increasing endorphin and oxytocin levels, according to the National Center for Biotechnical Information.
“Our crews are getting busier with more calls,” said Kanessa Thompson, AMR community relations coordinator and Apollo’s handler. “We thought he could be a good addition.”