We are excited to announce The Firehouse Project! Last week, in partnership with Thor’s Hope Foundation and The City of Vista Fire Department, we transferred Clifford, a two-year-old Labrador Retriever to the fire department in an effort help our amazing firefighters with the stress and overwhelm that comes with their grueling job.
While the use of facility dogs is not a new approach to helping address the mental health of first responders; Clifford is the first facility dog used to provide this kind of comfort and emotional support to firefighters and first responders in the San Diego County region.
About Clifford (Not the Big Red Dog)
Clifford came to Performance K9 Training in April 2018 and has clocked more than 2,000 hours of training with David. Clifford was originally intended to be a mobility service dog, but his job duties were redefined when The City of Vista Fire Department appeared on our radar.
What is most impressive is that Clifford handles his world-class obedience skills under distraction. His wide range of duties include:
A balance harness
Retrieving personal items for his handler
Go to your place command
Long down stays
Circling the handler to a heel position
A structured heel
Opening doors with a tug
And many more.
When he’s not wearing his vest and working, Clifford is a fun loving Lab! But, as soon as his vest is on, he’s all business. Due to his extensive training, he maintains a calm and polite manner in all types of situations and with everyone he meets.
Clifford’s new owner, Deputy Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol, is a talented handler who has undergone numerous hours of training with David.
David was impressed with their strong relationship from the beginning and said this about the duo, “The bond between Clifford and Ned was almost instantaneous. Ned is an impressive dog handler and Clifford is highly responsive to Ned which makes them a top-notch team with a bright future.”
The Mental Health of First Responders
According to a study done last year, more officers and firefighters died by suicide than in the line of duty.
Miriam Heyman, one of the co-authors of the study had this to say about the staggering numbers, “Here’s the reality, though: Police and firefighters witness death and destruction daily. It would be silly to think it wouldn’t put a toll on them.”
Luckily, departments across the nation are starting to talk about this alarming situation and determining various ways to address the mental health and wellness of its first responders.
Our hope is that facility dogs like Clifford is one of these avenues. Our goal, along with Thor’s Hope Foundation, is to continue to help place future facility dogs free of charge to fire departments so that they can support our firefighters!
Performance K9 Training is boutique dog training facility that helps pet parents achieve the perfect pet relationship. We were founded by David Greene who has represented the United States on four world teams with his dogs, placing third and ninth in the world.
Understanding that each dog has their own unique personality, we tailor the right “board and train” program to address specific behavioral issues. Contact us today to learn more!