Therapy fire dog boost spirits of Los Angeles County Fire Department, US
It takes a special person to be a first responder. Sometimes, our heroes need their own hero. For the Los Angeles County Fire Department, it’s a blonde-haired, brown-eyed girl with a sweet smile and a sparkling personality. She also has four legs. Her name is Echo the Fire Dog. "To say that it was love at first sight, is 100 percent correct." Echo is a trained PTSD service dog. She joined the Los Angeles County Fire Department about a year ago, with the help of Jake Windell. "I submitted a pilot program to our department, about having therapy dogs available to our peer support team," explains the fire fighter. "Once we were approved, I started reaching out to different therapy dog foundations, to see about donating a therapy dog to our department. And, that's kind of how I found Echo."
Together, they work with the fire department's mental health programme and Windell is Echo's permanent partner and handler.
Echo gives each person facing the aftermath of a tragedy a moment of normalcy, often bringing smiles and laughter. She also breaks down barriers, allowing people to open up.
"She's on-call 24/7. Any time we have a major or high-stress incident, we bring Echo out. Echo allows us to break the stigma, a little bit, of mental health," explains Windell. "It’s ok not to be ok. And, sometimes our fire fighters struggle. They're afraid or they're embarrassed to ask for help. Echo is kind of changing the morale."
They offer support during wildfires and recently, Echo and Windell were called in to help after the deadly fire station shooting in Agua Dulce. "She could tell that something was different," Windell recalls. "But, she did her job. She went up to every single person in that room and just let them pet her and play tug-o-war with her."
The four-year-old, yellow lab also loves the camera. In the last few months, Echo has become a social media superstar, with nearly 70 000 followers just on TikTok. "She's just the happiest dog in the world," boasts Windell. "I think she has a purpose and I truly believe that she knows that."
Echo the Fire Dog and fire fighter Windell are the KNX Heroes of the Week! KNX Heroes is brought to you by California Resources Corporation, saluting our military veterans and all of our heroes!
Source: KNX 1070 Newsradio