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Healing heroes: How service dogs transform the lives of first responders

Learn how a service dog helps a wildland firefighter and EMT manage her anxiety, interrupt nightmares and perform deep-pressure therapy

By EMS1 Staff

Every day, our first responders put their lives on the line, facing dangerous and traumatic situations to keep our communities safe.

But the invisible wounds of their service — anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress — often linger long after the emergencies are over, manifesting as mental scars that can be eased by the healing power of a wagging tail.

American Humane’s Pups4Patriots program, dedicated to harnessing the healing power of the human-animal bond, provides lifesaving service dogs and their training to first responders and veterans at no cost, thanks to the generous support of donors.

Watch the video to learn how Christina, a wildland firefighter and EMT, has found an incredible partner in Freja, her service dog. Freja, a standard poodle trained by American Humane, helps Christina manage anxiety, interrupts nightmares and performs deep pressure therapy.

Specially trained service dogs like Freja can reduce stress, mitigate depression, ease social reintegration and restore confidence. Yet, many first responder and veterans face long waiting lists and high costs, with training exceeding $30,000 per service dog

Visit to learn how to contribute to the Pups4Patriots program.

The benefits are clear, but where to start? Learn how to find, fund and implement a therapy dog program, and download a fillable caretaking schedule