Don’t be surprised to find a dog toy lying around Fire Station 107. The Canyon Country Fire Department first welcomed the Comfort Dog to the team at the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Echo is a 4-year-old yellow Labrador. She joined the department last June, thanks to Jake Windel, a firefighter / emergency medical worker and Echo handler.
“When we wake up around 5: 5:30 to come to work, she knows it’s a work day, so she can immediately hear her tail sway. You can, “Windel said.
He said Echo and Windel were always together. In the morning, Windel rides a truck to the station with Echo, who worked with a veteran living in PTSD.
“It’s almost an echo truck and I just drive it. What she needs is always with me,” he said. “Every time I open the truck, she finds herself in the fire department. She’s all excited.”
According to Windel, Echo provided continuity within the station during the shift change when one crew member was leaving the station and preparing for another crew member to arrive.
“In the morning, everyone is waiting for Echo to come here at the kitchen table … and when she comes here, it’s a big party,” he said. “So, thanks to Echo, we’ll spend a little more time with each other.”
She changes people
Windel said she was fortunate to work with Echo to see how she could change people.
“When people stroke a dog, it’s amazing what they start talking about, what they start talking about, and it brings that light and its happiness to people,” Windel said.
In the field, Echo has the same effect on firefighters and emergency care. With a 24/7 phone call, Echo needs to be always ready to respond to serious incidents in order to provide behavioral health and peer support.
“Our peer support team is made up of firefighters who go out after these calls and talk to firefighters, allowing them to open and talk about what they saw,” he said. Told. “When our firefighters go out, they can assess whether they think it’s a good time for the echo to come out.”
Echo’s first mission as a comfort dog was last year’s Bobcat Fire. “The days” of fighting such a fire were “very’Groundhog Day’,” he said, referring to the famous Bill Murray comedy, where the same day is repeated many times.
“As you know, we interact with their crew in the morning, allowing them to (a) have a little sense of home and happiness, and do the same routine over and over again. I repeat, “he said.
Fire station 81 after shooting
According to Windel, the feeling of comfort that Echo brings is important during this fire season. It was very important even after the recent shooting of Fire Department 81.
“It’s almost distracting,” Windel said on June 1 about the role of Echo. “(She) took them away from everything we were dealing with that day.”
“I don’t know what’s going on, the feeling of being able to have that innocent dog makes me happy to see you and I’m happy that you decided to stroke her,” Windel said. .. “I think it really helped the crew.”
Echo was with crew members from across the Santa Clarita Valley during the week when firefighters honored fellow firefighter Tory Carlon, who died in the shooting.
According to Windel, the idea was to “make people smile, see the brightness that (echo) brings, and allow people to start the healing process.”
Windel said he believes Echo helped the healing process.
“She helps people have just a kind of happiness and sees its tail sway. As you know, its tail never stops swaying,” he said. “And it just makes people feel a little more comfortable and at home.”
Echo is a popular figure among the crew of the local fire department. She also develops quite a bit on Instagram: Over 3,000 accounts follow @echothefiredog to see Echo in action and play.
A recent 20-second video shot on TikTok, where this local social media celebrity has nearly 100 followers, begins with the question, “Why does the fire department need a comfort dog?” It features Echo’s photos that spread happiness to fire department staff.
How it started
The “reason” for the department’s comfort dog program was the point that Windel had to be good at explaining to department executives over the last decade.
“I had a lot of questions,” he recalled. “This was a new program, a new idea.”
He said the idea started with raising a bad dog that Windel found at work. The impact they had on the crew while at the station led to the idea of taking therapy dogs to the department.
“Twenty guys are playing with dogs in the living area, they’re all there, they’re all laughing and having a good time,” Windel said of the days when his dog joined him. “We really started talking and realized that the fire department needed a dog.”
About three years ago, with the help of department heads, Windel said the plan was implemented and interest was raised by organizations that wanted to help new programs find dogs.
“I was very lucky and found a patriotic dog foundation,” Windel said. “We were the first fire department dogs.”
How it’s happening
Currently, fire departments across the country are very interested in the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s program, Windel said.
“Everyone is reaching out now and trying to understand how we did this,” he said, saying the Los Angeles Fire Department also has a comfort dog. “We are coaching other fire departments in our dog program.”
From nearby departments such as Santa Monica and Glendale to distant departments such as Phoenix and Boston, Windel said they are in contact to learn more about Echo.
“In these other departments, we pull out the Echo to answer the question, but we also show how it works. Just taking her to the room changes the mood and the seriousness of the situation.” Said Windel. “It’s not about the patches we’re wearing, it’s that we’re all firefighters and we’re helping because we’ve seen the benefits of this.”
The Los Angeles County Fire Department also has Miro, the second comfort dog to work with the Department’s peer support coordinator to bring comfort to firefighters.
Echo made a big difference between the cumulative stress of work and trauma.
“It doesn’t matter what happened on the street. Back in the kitchen door, Echo stood waving his tail and she was excited about us coming back. Going back to reality.” Said Windel. “When we got home, we came back with an echo.”
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