Battling California’s devastating wildfires takes a toll, both mentally and physically, on firefighters. In addition to the overwhelming flames, heat, and smoke, many of them are away from home for days or weeks at a time—away from their families and missing important milestones. It’s a tough situation for even the strongest-willed firefighters, so it’s a good thing a therapy dog—a Golden Retriever named Kerith—has been providing emotional support in these fraught times.
Kerith’s owner, Heidi Carman, told PopSugar that this very good girl was originally supposed to be trained as a guide dog for the visually impaired. However, they soon realized that her personality was better suited for becoming a certified therapy dog.
“Kerith loves people more than other dogs or anything else,” Carman told the publication. “It was clear to me from an early age that she would be an excellent therapy dog because of her love and devotion to people.” Another quality that makes Kerith ideal as a therpay dog is that she’s able to tune into each firefighter’s highly individual needs.
“Kerith matches people’s energy. If a firefighter is super excited and lays on the ground so Kerith can roll around and play with them, then Kerith will be higher energy and silly with them. If a firefighter is calm, stressed, and withdrawn, Kerith will be calm as well. She’ll sit closely to the individual, sometimes sit on their feet and lean into their body in a way that says, ‘I am here for you as long as you need me.'”Via Pop Sugar
So far, Heidi has taken Kerith to visit Woodward Fire base camp in Marin County and the Creek Fire base camp in Fresno County—two areas that have been hit particularly hard by the wildfires. She documents their interactions on Kerith’s official Instagram account, which includes plenty of heartwarming photos interacting with emergency responders.
According to UCLA Health, therapy dogs have been scientifically proven to provide a number of mental and physical benefits, such as promoting the release of serotonin and reducing sadness and anxiety, as well as even lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health. Kerith’s heroism is just one way dogs can help out in areas ravaged by wildfires!
For anyone who would like to further their efforts, Carman has started a GoFundMe account where you can donate to help Team Kerith continue to provide her “invaluable services” to Marin County firefighters.