#082: First responder support with Erin and Winston

by | May 8, 2023 | Therapy Dog Talk

Therapy Dog Talk - Erin + Winston

Erin and her Australian Labradoodle Winston are making an impact in their community from children to first responders.

In this 82nd episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I sit down with Erin and her seven-year-old Australian Labradoodle, Winston. We discuss their journey as a therapy dog team, including their experiences across a variety of settings including children’s hospitals and first responder units. Erin and Winston are certified by Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) and First Responder Therapy Dogs, and Erin says Winston has a natural knack for comforting and supporting those in need, especially with children and first responders.

Erin takes us through Winston’s therapy dog resume, beginning with their volunteer work at Nemours Children’s Hospital and an assisted living facility. We also talk about their more recent role with First Responder Therapy Dogs and the critical role therapy dogs like Winston play in supporting the mental health of first responders.

Throughout our chat, Erin stresses the importance of paying attention to Winston’s comfort levels during their volunteer shifts and how she knows when he needs a break. She also reflects on what she finds rewarding in volunteering with a therapy dog and the positive, often life-changing effects they have on their community.

After tuning into this episode, you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of how rewarding it can be to volunteer with a therapy dog and the impact they can make.

In this episode, we discuss …

  • Why Erin decided she wanted to look for a therapy dog prospect.
  • How Winston’s intuitive nature makes him an exceptional first responder support dog.
  • Why it’s important to understand and respect your dog’s comfort in volunteer situations.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

Note that the timecodes match the video, not the podcast.

  • [00:01:17] Erin introduces herself and Winston and fills us in on how she found out about Therapy Dogs.
  • [00:03:02] We discuss how genetics can simplify, or complicate, training a dog to be a Therapy Dog.
  • [00:04:57] Erin shares their volunteer journey from Nemours Children’s Hospital and an assisted living facility to the airport and first responder support.
  • [00:07:56] Erin talks about their recognition for their work with the Seminole County Fire Department, emphasizing the crucial role of therapy dogs in first responder mental health.
  • [00:09:39] Erin explains the process of joining First Responder Therapy Dogs and their additional training for this role.
  • [00:14:07] Erin discusses why she decided to become a Tester/Observer for ATD and what that entails.
  • [00:16:03] Erin emphasizes the importance of understanding Winston’s comfort and making sure his needs are met.
  • [00:18:29] As a Tester/Observer, Erin has quite a bit of advice for new Therapy Dog teams.
  • [00:20:47] Erin reflects on the positive impact of their work and why she finds it so rewarding.

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:

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Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.

Do you know someone who would make a great guest? Be sure to reach out and let me know.

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