Meet Moose and Rhino, our Barn Dog Heroes
“My name is Emily and I own three Equiderma pets: my thoroughbred Arrow and my two labradors Moose and Rhino, who are both certified therapy dogs. I am an emergency room nurse and have seen the benefits of therapy dogs both in my personal life and at work. My goal when I bought Moose was to train him for therapy work. Moose was born to be a therapy dog; he has an incredibly calm and friendly temperament. I first certified Moose to work with me at my hospital visiting both staff and patients, but I knew I wanted to do more with him. In early 2019 Moose’s breeder called and said she had a really special puppy that she hoped I wanted to take home. I went up to meet this puppy, Moose’s nephew, and fell in love. I brought Rhino home two months before Covid-19 shut the world down and put most of our training on hold.
I started looking at my coworkers and the first responders I work alongside everyday and wanted to do more. Even before the pandemic added so much stress to our lives, physicians had the highest suicide rate of any profession and firefighters had a suicide rate that is higher than deaths caused in the line of duty. On top of that, healthcare providers and first responders are the least likely to seek help or report these issues.
I attempted several times to join the disaster therapy dog teams around the state to help with all the horrific wildfires that have become normal for California, but I was unable to join because my dogs did not have enough experience or training since Covid had shut things down. But then I stumbled upon a local therapy group while scrolling through Instagram. I reached out to First Responder Therapy Dogs and begged to be a part of their team, but they had just started and were not yet ready to expand. Perseverance paid off and after a short wait we were asked to join the team!
The first event we were involved in was supporting the group RED Help with a memorial walk in honor of a local firefighter who had taken his own life. We joined a team that walked twenty-two miles that day, which is symbolic because on average twenty-two veterans take their own lives every day. Although we could not walk all twenty-two miles, we met the team at several points to provide support. This was a powerful event that brought me to tears: for the family, for the fire community, and seeing the joy a dog could bring.
As First Responder Therapy Dogs we do special events like the RED Help event, and we do regular visits to my emergency department and to local fire departments. My staff and the firefighters often see me at work and ask when my boys will next be available for a visit. We also focus on visiting firefighters during wildfire season, which unfortunately is very long now in California. We were able to visit the Caldor and Kings Canyon fires last year. The brave men and women fighting these fires saved two places I dearly love: Lake Tahoe and Kings Canyon National Park. During wildfire season, firefighters are often away from home for weeks at a time, so our teams provide them with a sense of normalcy, offer comfort, and remind them that they are loved, supported, and greatly appreciated.
Moose, Rhino, and I are coming up on a year together with First Responder Therapy Dogs, and I am so proud to be a part of this team. I know that the work we do provides much-needed support to people who are taught to be tough and not ask for help. Dogs have an incredible ability to sense who needs support and will often walk right up to that individual and just sit quietly with them. Our dogs listen to words that are not spoken and provide support to those who think they cannot ask for it.
If you would like to learn more about our team visit our website: https://firstrespondertherapydogs.org or follow us on Instagram at @moose_and_rhino (or follow the team at @firstrespondertherapydogs)”
-Emily Brown, Moose & Rhino, true Barn Dog Ambassadors!
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