Golden Retriever Therapy Dog Offers Hugs to Firefighters Battling California Wildfires

kerith the golden retriever/ Instagram

As fires continue to blaze in California, Kerith the golden retriever is doing her part by visiting and comforting the firefighters battling the natural disaster.

Kerith is a licensed therapy dog, and has been providing comfort to firefighters in Northern California’s Marin County for just over a year, her owner Heidi Carmen recently told SFGate.

"She doesn't know there is a fire. She doesn't know there is COVID. So she just knew she was seeing her friends and was really happy to do so. For the firefighters, I think it really made their day," Carmen said. "One firefighter from central Marin said, 'This was the best base camp ever because Kerith was there.'"

Kerith’s job has become particularly important in the wake of the ongoing forest fires on the west coast, so much so that Carmen started a GoFundMe page so that her pup can continue her hard work. The funds will cover Kerish’s time with the first responders as well as transportation costs.

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"Day after day, firefighters and other first responders risk their lives for people they have never met. In one twenty-four-hour shift, this population may be exposed to any number of traumatic events, from wildfires they can't control to patients they can’t save," the description on the page reads.

"Although these men and women are incredibly strong, everyone needs support from time to time, and when dealing with trauma, and individuals exposed to trauma, we know that sometimes indirect and grounding support, as well as social contact, can be a very effective aid to treatment for people who have gone through some of the realities outlined above that many of us cannot imagine."

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"Enter Team Kerith, the Golden Retriever," the description continues. "She provides unconditional love and instant stress relief to first responders. She forms bonds with the firefighters by simply being herself: she greets with playful wiggles, adoring eye contact, and makes each person she meets feel important, special, and loved. The experience that Kerith is able to provide can be invaluable to individuals suffering from PTSD symptomology."

Some of the physical health benefits Kerith can provide to first responders include releasing hormones that play a part in elevating moods, lowering anxiety and reducing feelings of loneliness, lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health, and slowing breathing.

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Carmen added on the GoFundMe page that therapy dogs like Kerith help "change the stigma around mental health for first responders."

"Kerith has become a member of the Marin County Fire Fighting family. She is there for the crew when they return from a bad call or when they are simply getting ready for dinner," she wrote. "There are many unknowns, since the nature of a first responder’s job is unpredictable, but knowing Kerith will be there to greet them at the end of the day with a wagging tail and a smile is not one of them."

You can keep up with Kerith and her important and adorable field trips to visit firefighters on the golden's Instagram @kerith_the_golden_retriever.