Golden retriever boosts morale for California wildfire first responders

Golden retriever boosts morale for California wildfire first responders

09/28/2020

Firefighters may be tough, but they need emotional support, too.

That’s why the first responders battling California’s wildfires count on Kerith, a 2-year-old golden retriever and therapy animal.

Kerith’s Instagram profile, which boasts over 12,000 fans, describes the compassionate pooch as one who loves typical dog stuff, like trail-running and splashing in the surf on the Pacific’s shores. But when it’s time to go to work, Kerith shows up for firefighters who have traveled long distances to help combat fires, which have sparked throughout California and scorched millions of acres since the summer.

Raised in San Rafael to be a guide for the blind, Kerith’s energy and affectionate temperament made her a more ideal candidate for emotional support training, and she went on to earn certification as a therapy dog.

“She brings levity and a sense of playfulness even though they know the task of the day will be challenging,” said Kerith’s handler Heidi Carmen.

When she’s not thanking emergency crews for their life-saving work, Kerith is also known to visit local hospitals. However, Carmen told CNN that her “favorite people are firefighters.”

In an effort to bring continued hope, Carmen also hands out pocket-size photos of Kerith to each firefighter she meets, as a charm to motivate them while they risk their lives to save others.

“Kerith helps them feel less overwhelmed, exhausted and emotionally depleted,” she said.

Recently, Kerith visited a base camp for firefighters battling the Woodward fire in Marin County, which has burned through nearly 5,000 acres since August and is now 97% contained, according to the Los Angeles Times. An update on her Instagram page last month during a visit to Point Reyes National Seashore illustrated why her work is so critical at this time.

“There are wildfires to the West, North, South and East of us,” the post reads. “Too many fires, not enough resources to battle them so they are growing. We are doing the best we can to lift moral[e] at base camp. Hang in there my friends.”

Carmen and Kerith are pressing on, up and down the West coast, boosting morale wherever fires continue to rage.

“She makes people feel loved, special and important. One firefighter told me, ‘Kerith has the uncanny ability to make me feel like I am the most important person in the world,’ ” said Carmen.

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