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Canine Firefighter

July 24, 2020

A Charlottesville-area organization is training a canine to help a firefighter with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“PTSD and other mental health disorders are fairly common in the fire service, and truly in any public safety,” Interim Fire Chief of the Charlottesville Fire Department Emily Pelliccia said.

Pelliccia has 25 years of experience in public safety and knows the toll this job has on firefighters’ mental health.

“This stuff that we see and deal with on a daily basis really requires some type of outlet, or some type of support beyond just daily living,” Pelliccia said.

That outlet can be as simple as a dog by your side.

“A dog can’t solve the huge problem, but they can be a piece. A dog is with someone constantly,” Service Dogs of Virginia Executive Director Peggy Law said.

Law has been training a canine, named Lewis, to help comfort a firefighter suffering from PTSD in the Hampton Roads area.

“This is our first placement for a firefighter, so I’m very excited,” Law said. “This firefighter is in therapy. He’s doing a lot of things to support his mental health, and the dog will be a constant that is with him.”

Lewis and other dogs in training visited Charlottesville Fire Department’s station on Ridge Street Friday, July 24, to get acclimated to the sites and sounds.

Through the ups and downs a firefighter may go through, Pelliccia is grateful for the outlet Law is providing them.

“This is one-on-one support that will be with him personally and I’m grateful that we’re able to assist her with this,” Pelliccia said.

Lewis is set to meet the firefighter on Monday at the Service Dogs of Virginia training facility where the two will get to know each other for a few weeks.

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