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More therapy dogs lend a helping paw to paramedics

March 7, 2019 | in Community News, News

More therapy dogs are being recruited to help Victoria’s paramedics better deal with the daily challenges they face in responding to emergencies and saving lives.

Bruce, the first peer support dog has made a real difference to the lives and mental health of paramedics by helping them cope with the traumatic, confronting and life-threatening emergencies they regularly encounter.

The six-year-old, specially-trained and affectionate labrador has made 260 location visits interacting with paramedics 2900 times in a six-month trial.

Ambulance Victoria Chief Executive Officer, Associate Professor Tony Walker said the expansion of the program, making it statewide, demonstrates Ambulance Victoria’s (AV) commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of our staff.

“Our two new furry friends, Lexi (a bernese mountain dog) and Callie (a standard schnauzer), and their handlers paramedics and Peer Support Responders Jo Algie, and Rob Simons, will soon join  Bruce and his handler Ken Whittle on metropolitan and  regional visits.”

Therapy dog

The expanded program, announced by Minister for Ambulance Services Jenny Mikakos, will be applied across Victoria to maximise exposure to paramedics to help them through difficult moments, reduce stress and deliver better mental health outcomes.

The integrated program – the first of its kind for an Australian ambulance service – has also raised awareness of mental health support and reduced the stigma attached to seeking help, encouraging paramedics to ‘open up’ and talk to their peers.

Associate Professor Walker said he was absolutely delighted to be able to open up the opportunity for Ambulance Victoria employees to apply to be a part of the peer support dog program.

Bruce and Callie