Meet York County's Newest Therapy Dogs

A German Shorthaired Pointer named Mickey, is making a difference in his community every day. Along with his owner Lynn Browne, the pair recently completed training with the First Responder Therapy Dogs organization, based in San Rafael, California. With the training complete, he is on the ready to assist police, firefighters, dispatchers, and more after difficult and stressful emergency calls.

"He's a great listener, and he doesn't tell a soul anything," Browne recounts. "So you can tell him your deepest thoughts, and he'll keep it all to himself." Mickey is not alone though! Cali, a Catahoula Leopard Dog owned by Celena Welty, is also based in Central Pennsylvania and attended the same training school.

Cali is exceptional at picking up on the feelings of humans. Her owner Celena recalls when she met with a Warden, and put her paws up on his shoulders to give him a hug. When she asked if he was having a bad day, he replied, Yep! "It makes my heart happy when my dog can put smiles on their faces," she said. 

The First Responder Therapy Dogs organization began in 2020 during the 2020 fire season in California. Heidi Carmen and her dog, Kerith, started to visit local fire departments and fire base camps. She saw the need for therapy dogs and quickly started an organization focused on training as many dogs as possible!

She says the organization has grown to 28 states with 132 therapy dog teams. Her goal is to have every first responder have access to a service dog to benefit their mental and emotional health.

Soon, a third dog will be trained in Pennsylvania. While any breed can be a therapy dog, they must pass the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test, have good obedience, not get distracted, and have a good temperament around other dogs. 

Additionally, the dog must undergo tests to ensure they are not easily frightened by things such as fire engines with flashing lights, sirens, and other emergency responses as well as have a Veterinarian sign off on a clean bill of health. The trainer is also required to complete background checks, online training, etc.

When describing the interactions, she says, "There's just so much conversation going on between that dog and the first responder without any words. It's just so healing and therapeutic, which is why it works because this population doesn't really like to talk about their feelings generally," she said.


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