As those in the EMS industry know, we deal with many stressful situations, and we are emotionally taxed at times. For years, employees at Mobile Medical Response, in Saginaw, Michigan, asked for a station dog that they could decompress with that would also be available 24/7.
We knew we wanted a rescue dog, so we were put in contact with the Bay County Humane Society in Michigan (BCHS). BCHS is part of the Iron Paws program through the Michigan Department of Corrections. This program takes in a specific number of dogs that go to the prison and live with two inmates 24/7 who train and teach them basic commands. We believed that having a dog trained in a noisy and busy environment would do well at our station. Our assumption was correct.
Before making the final decision, we did our due diligence. We talked to everyone who would encounter Gladys, including our CEO, to hear employee’s thoughts on having a dog around 24/7.
We identified who would be responsible for taking her to appointments. We also set clear ground rules for how we would operate with her daily care.
As some were skeptical, we even ensured a backup plan. Our Assistant VP of Operations, Eric, volunteered to take the dog home to live with him if it didn’t work out.
Gladys has been with us now for 4 months. The road crew and the office staff all participate in her care.
We use a dry erase board to record potty breaks, walks or runs. And, we have it set up with our dispatch center that if our supervisor is out, and no one else is here, they take over care.
Funding a therapy dog
Gladys’ care is self-funded by employee and leadership donations. Initial costs were partially covered through bottle returns. A community member came to a meeting and donated $100 to Gladys’ care.
For EMS Week, Gladys traveled to all our MMR divisions to visit with employees she’s never met before. Gladys also did her first public relations appearance at the Frankenmuth Dog Bowl in Frankenmuth, Michigan in May. With approximately 100,000 people and 8,000 dogs there, she did extremely well given all the attention she received. Gladys is truly an ambassador for our organization.
The benefits of having Gladys here are broad and probably understated sometimes. Gladys seems to know when people are tired or stressed in any way. She gives us unconditional love when our days have been long, exhausting and difficult. Overall, Gladys is working out for us will be a long-term part of our MMR family.
Watch for more:
Getting started with first responder therapy dogs
In this on-demand event, learn how a therapy dog program benefits personnel, the agency and the community, as well as key program considerations, from funding and handler compensation to dog selection and training