VISTA–The Vista Fire Station One has a new four-legged member.
During an official ceremony at the fire station, the department introduced Clifford, a two-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever, as its new well-being ‘tool’ for firefighters who often deal with occupational stress as a result from their job.
David Greene of Performance K9 Training and Thor’s Hope Foundation “handed off” Clifford to his new handler, Vista Deputy Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol.
Deputy Chief Vander Pol’s integration of his trained, therapeutic facility dog, Clifford, to the Vista Fire Department is expected to help reduce workplace occupational stress.
“We are pleased to introduce Clifford to our firefighters,” said Jeff Hahn, Vista Fire Chief. “First responders, including firefighters, often deal with occupational stress and Clifford is our newest ‘tool’ in our wellness toolkit to help provide for the well-being of our firefighters.”
Firefighters witness more trauma than the average person and Clifford will be used as an additional approach to help Vista firefighters relax and unwind from the stresses of the job. A facility dog is expertly trained in obedience and specialty cues and is used in work settings under the direction of a professional partner or handler. The handler is trained in specific techniques which enable the dog to maintain a calm and polite manner in all situations and to be adaptable to interactions with a variety of people in different situations.
In addition to Clifford’s training, Greene has had training sessions with Clifford and Vander Pol and describes both the dog and handler as the perfect match.
“Clifford has undergone more than two thousand of hours of training aimed at showcasing his impeccable manners toward everyone he meets,” said Greene, adding how Clifford began his training with him in April 2018. “The bond between Clifford and Ned was almost instantaneous. Ned is an impressive dog handler and Clifford is highly responsive to Ned which make them a top-notch team with a bright future.”
“Clifford and I look forward to helping firefighters deal with the stresses of the job,” said Vander Pol. “ We are excited to be a part of the solution.”
When ‘on duty’ Clifford will wear a vest identifying his status, visit the six Vista fire stations, and occasionally assist firefighters during educational outreach events. While the use of a facility dog is not new to cities across the nation; Clifford is the first facility dog used to provide comfort and emotional support to firefighters in the San Diego region. Deputy Chief Vander Pol owns the dog and will be organizing the site visits and other activities for Clifford.
Thor’s Hope Foundation was established in 2013 as a private foundation providing mobility service dogs and trained facility dogs for an array of therapeutic benefits. Through education and public outreach, the foundation dedicates itself in increasing awareness regarding the value service dogs bring.