Vancouver fire department’s newest recruit won’t be helping put out fires any time soon, but she has already started helping firefighters deal with the stresses that come with the job.
“It’s no secret that mental health challenges is one of the big issues facing first responders,” Chief Darrell Reid said.
Reid said that over the last year, the department has been developing a comprehensive plan aimed at improving firefighters’ mental health and giving them the tool so to handle future challenges.
And on Monday, the department formally introduced the newest member of the team — Lola, a two-and-a-half year old golden retriever. Lola is a trauma dog and is the latest addition to how the department helps staff dealing with occupational stress, trauma and mental health.
A rescue originally from Boise, Idaho, Lola was trained by the Citadel Canine Society, a group that trains canines as post traumatic street disorder service dogs for military veterans and first responders, and joined the department six weeks ago.
Acting Capt. Steve Fraser, who runs the occupational health and wellness program, said Lola has spent her first weeks with the department out at the training facility, getting used to the sights and sounds of an active fire department. Her job includes accompanying Fraser to meetings with firefighters after critical or traumatic events, and he said she’s already helped some firefighters relax and open up.
“She’s a very mellow, loving dog and that shows when she’s with our members,” Fraser said. “She truly does have a calming effect… People feel more relaxed when she’s in the room.”
Monday was a special day for Lola. It marked the end of her “recruitment” phase and she officially joined the ranks of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.