A dog for our staff

BY LEE REINSCH
Reporter

DE PERE – People in the helping professions give of themselves day in and day out. This is what they do.
But who helps them when they need help?

It’s something mom of three Tammy Gossen thinks about a lot.

In his time of need last year, De Pere Fire Rescue (DPFR) arrived within minutes.

It was the last Christmas Eve that her daughter, Ainsley Noel Gossen, realized she was in labor before she appeared in the family room.

“My wife and I are extremely grateful to De Pere Fire Rescue for coming to our aid,” he said.

Ainsley Noel is now a happy, healthy nine-month-old. But the incident got Gossen and her husband, John Gossen II, thinking about emergency responders and what it’s like to be in dangerous, dramatic, heightened situations hour after hour, day after day.

“In a 24-hour shift, they can experience any number of traumatic events, from fires they can’t control to patients they can’t save,” Gossen said.

So what could they do to help?

The answer was a three-letter word that some say reverses the god’s spells: Dog.

As in a therapy dog ​​for the fire department.

The Gossens have launched a $10,000 fundraiser to sponsor a furry inspiration trainer for DPFR, both as a thank you and to honor Ainsley Noel’s first birthday.

“Mental health is a big thing among first responders,” said De Pere EMS Chief Alan Matzke.
DPFR has been quite progressive over the years: it was an early adopter of a critical incident stress reduction program in the 1990s, and for the past 15 years it has had a proactive spiritual program that addresses issues such as resilience training and peer-to-peer training. advice, Matzke said.

Late last month, the De Pere Common Council gave the De Pere Fire Rescue a unanimous nod to proceed with the therapy dog ​​program.

101 reasons
Dogs in firehouses are nothing new, Matzke said. They date back to the origins of the fire service.

De Pere wrote in a memo to the finance and personnel committee: “The service dogs were an integral part of the fire company staff, running alongside the mounted fire engines, calming the horses and protecting them from thieves.”

“Police dogs have been used in active police work for over 100 years,” he said. “While these dogs are working breeds with one job to do, they also bring something else to the table:
camaraderie, plus a deep therapeutic connection with their handlers. These handlers knew this, and that’s why they love dogs as partners.”

Of course, dogs continue to play a key role in police and fire departments, and their duties have only grown.

“Some dogs are now being trained to improve the mental health and well-being of first responders,” Matzke said.

According to UCLA Health, an animal therapy program known as Human-Animal Connection, therapy animals can lower blood pressure, slow breathing and help the body produce hormones that reduce anxiety.

“Therapy dogs are trained and temperamented to help provide therapeutic care to anyone and everyone,” Matzke said.

And who wouldn’t want that?

It is possible that not everyone does. Matzke said any DPFR employee with an allergy or simply doesn’t want to interact with a dog can simply opt out.

A fire department employee will assume the role of the dog’s primary caregiver, he said, because studies show therapy dogs benefit from having a handler rather than being free-range in an organization. The dog will live with the person when they are not at the fire station.

The goal is for the person to be a weekday worker, so as many employees as possible can benefit from having the dog around.

DPFR plans to use the same breeder and trainer as the De Pere Unified School District for its dog, Charlee, she said. The trainer not only trains the dog, but also the handler.

According to him, the dog is not selected for its breed, but for its personality traits.

Dollars and smells

Matzke estimates that upfront costs for the dog will be $8,200 for the first year ($7,200 for the dog, training and certification, and $1,000 for supplies) and $1,700 per year in subsequent years. He said he expects to raise money, not city funds, to support the dog.

Nicolet Bank in De Pere helped kick off the fundraiser with a bake sale and opening of the Dog for Our Crew fundraiser. Those wishing to donate can do so at any Nicolet National Bank location in the area.

Luna Coffee Roasters in De Pere is donating $5 to the foundation from every 12-ounce, $12 A Canine for Our Crew coffee.

“We loved the story behind the Gossens’ fundraiser, so it was an easy choice to come on board,” said Mark Patel, owner of Luna Coffee Roasters in De Pere.

Patel said they raise quite a bit of money, giving up to $20,000 a year to various charities. “It’s a big part of what we do, and we try to do as much as we can,” he said. As of Monday, Coffee sales have gained $100-200 for this reason.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

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