Ending firefighter mental health stigma through the LA County Fire Peer Support Team with Jake Windell and Echo.
In this 51st episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I chat with Los Angeles County Firefighter Jake Windell and his 5-year old Yellow Labrador, Echo, about their amazing work together to break the mental health stigma for firefighters through the LA County Fire Peer Support Team.
Jake, who grew up with psychologist parents using dogs in their practices, always knew the positive impact therapy dogs could have on mental health. When Echo, a former PTSD service dog, became available, she was the perfect match for Jake’s vision. Together, they’ve brought hope and healing to firefighters dealing with emotional stress.
During our conversation, we talk about how Jake’s department now has six therapy dogs and has helped up to 20 other fire departments create their own programs. We also discuss the importance of providing support for both Jake and Echo, as they travel to neighboring departments to offer assistance.
Additionally, we touch on the history of dogs in fire stations and the role Dalmatians played in protecting the horses. By the end of this episode, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the incredible impact that therapy dogs, like Echo, can have on the lives of those they serve, especially in the challenging world of firefighting.
In this episode, we discuss …
- Where Jake found his inspiration to bring a Therapy Dog onto the team.
- How other departments have since been inspired to bring dogs on board for their firefighters.
- What Jake does to make sure both he and Echo have the support they need as well.
Key moments you won’t want to miss:
- [01:42] Jake talks about Echo and the LA County Fire Peer Support Team’s mission to end the mental health stigma for firefighters.
- [02:23] Echo was originally trained as a PTSD Service Dog by the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation and helped a military veteran for two years before being returned for more work.
- [03:12] The foundation connected Echo with Jake because she loves being pet, making her perfect for improving firefighter mental health.
- [03:37] In the past 10 years, most fire departments have removed dogs due to liability concerns from a lack of training and requirements.
- [04:04] Jake, a dog lover, proposed having a therapy dog as part of the peer support team in his department.
- [05:14] Growing up with psychologist parents who used dogs in therapy, Jake learned about mental health and the benefits of dogs.
- [05:52] Jake’s department now has six therapy dogs, and they’ve helped 20 other departments create their own programs.
- [06:30] Echo is considered every firefighter’s therapy dog, and she and Jake visit other departments to help as needed.
- [07:12] Jake and Echo find relaxation at the beach, and Jake knows when she needs rest and advocates for her.
- [15:04] Jake shares the history of Dalmatians in fire stations, their role in protecting horses, and how their deafness made them outcasts but also the perfect breed for the job.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!
Mentioned in this episode:
- First Responder Therapy Dogs
- Healing Our Own
- HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response
- L.A. County firefighters in SCV embrace therapy dog Echo
- New leash on life: Why firefighting dogs are making a comeback
- Patriotic Service Dog Foundation
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