VIDEO: The newest part-time employees at Gaston Emergency Medical Services walk on four legs and work for treats.
Bijou, her son Knox, and a Danish import named Macy Mae serve as the first responders’ therapy dogs. Their presence was the idea of Maj. Jessica Ross, who reflected on tough times at the department and her past career as a certified nursing assistant for a way to help her co-workers.
“The last couple years we’ve had some traumatic events,” Ross said. “Mental health in tragic events, first responders are more suicidal, we’re having more mental health problems. We actually lost one of our own last year to suicide. I was thinking, ‘What we could do to help the situation?’ When I was younger, I worked with oncology patients. Therapy dogs came in to the hospital and worked with patients. Their whole outlook changed, and I thought first responders would benefit from therapy dogs.”
Ross asked for help from Courtney Johnson, an EMT at GEMS and a breeder of Great Danes for more than 20 years.