LOS ANGELES - She’s become a bit of a mascot for one of the largest fires in LA County history, to give firefighters some much needed relief.
“Echo,” the comfort dog, has come to the rescue of the 1,500 firefighters battling the more than 113,000-acre Bobcat Fire for 17 days straight.
“Petting her or a lick on the face is such a game-changer for some of these guys out there,” says her handler, LA County Fire Paramedic and Firefighter Jake Windell.
The three-year-old Labrador, the runt of the litter, is a service dog trained in PTSD awareness. Five months ago, the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation donated Echo to Windell, as part of a new program he’s worked hard for four years to implement, to help first responders’ mental health. It’s an idea sparked after rescuing a lot of dogs at his old fire station.
“When we had the dogs there, everybody was together and everybody was hanging out,” says Windell. “We were laughing and joking with the dogs and I realized that the dogs are bringing a huge morale booster for our department.”
Echo now helps Windell’s team at Station 107 in Santa Clarita and together they respond to other fire stations to boost morale after their tough calls.
But currently, she’s helping those in the Bobcat Fire. Some of the firefighters come back to basecamp in Irwindale, after fighting on the front lines in the Angeles National Forest for 24 hours straight, to get some rest, food and ice up their coolers. But one of the best forms of recuperation many have found is Echo.
“She just kind of gets you back in the mode, calmed down, rezoned and ready to start again,” says LA County Fire Assistant Chief John O’Brien.
One of life’s best medicines – a lick from man’s best friend. “There’s a lot going on for our firefighters, so being able to bring a smile into the station, I would work forever to do that,” says Windell. “It’s truly rewarding to see this program come to light and see her bring smiles on our crews’ faces.”
Windell and Echo will continue bringing smiles to the first responders’ faces until crews can contain the Bobcat Fire.