SAN RAFAEL (KPIX) — A North Bay woman and her dog travel around the state to bring comfort to first responders on the job.
Smiles abound when Kerith the Golden Retriever makes her rounds. The three-year-old therapy dog visits California Highway Patrol officers like Denton Miniajluk at the Corte Madera station.READ MORE: Atmospheric River: High Winds Topple Trees, Scaffolding in San Francisco
“She always brightens everyone’s day,” he said.
For the last two years, Heidi Carman has brought Kerith to police and fire stations, fire basecamps, and other places to help alleviate the stress and trauma first responders experience on the job.
The trauma ranges from a devastating wildfire to a car accident with fatalities.
“If we have a rough day going in, we see her and she’s wagging her tail, coming towards us. It’s always a good feeling. It take a little edge off the day,” Miniajluk said.
As a puppy, Carman first trained the golden retriever for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
“She probably wasn’t the best fit as a working guide dog because she was so friendly with every single person that she met,” Carman chuckled.
So Carman switched gears, and trained Kerith to become a certified therapy dog.
They started by visiting the emergency room in Marin County.
“She was giving love and helping the staff and patients, family members that were there, and it was just a perfect fit for her,” Carman explained.READ MORE: Atmospheric River: More Than 147,000 Affected by Widespread Bay Area Outages
Carman founded the nonprofit First Responder Therapy Dogs in San Rafael.
In the last two years, the pair has made hundreds of visits statewide.
Many of them are documented on Kerith’s Instagram account. As with last year’s fire season, Carman and Kerith are packed and ready for their next call to a wildfire basecamp.
CHP Lt. Gloria Tellez marvels at Carman’s commitment.
“To be able to devote her life to make sure that she is able to respond to either scenes or the middle of the night or the day, or whenever they occur, and be there for that first responder in their moment of need, it’s amazing,” said Tellez.
Carman says it’s a win-win.
“By watching Kerith with them, I’m holding the end of the leash, all that goodness comes up the leash to me, but I walk away felling just as good as they do.”
So for providing comfort through First Responder Therapy Dogs, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Heidi Carman.
Carman has five certified therapy dogs. She gets requests from all over the state and beyond. As the nonprofit receives more donations, it’s able to send out more therapy dogs.MORE NEWS: Flooding Closes Stretch of Highway 1 in Pacifica
Carman reports that the team of Amber and her therapy dog Probie have already recently visited Sublimity, Oregon, and are ready to respond to wildfire basecamps in that state.