The Glendale Fire Department and Verdugo Fire Communications honored Cooper, a Goldendoodle puppy, for completing his first year on the job last Monday, March 4. Cooper is the first ever certified wellness canine to reach the one-year milestone.

Cooper has been supporting the fire department’s health and wellness program for the past twelve months, working with employees who have experienced trauma during critical incidents. Dogs have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety while improving morale and motivation in trauma patients. The UCLA Health Department reported elevated mood, lower anxiety, mental stimulation, and lower blood pressure as some of the benefits of spending time with a therapy dog.

Korin Peltier, a dispatcher at Glendale Fire Department Headquarters and Cooper’s handler, told Los Angeles Daily News that the fire department chose a Goldendoodle, “because they are bred for this type of work.” Goldendoodles are also allergy-friendly, which allows Cooper to help as many people as possible. Peltier took Cooper to Fire Station 22 in Glendale on Monday to celebrate his achievement. This weekend, the Glendale Fire Foundation is holding its annual Poker Classic fundraiser to benefit the Wellness K9 program.

“Cooper is here to help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety and to help lower blood pressure and your heart rate,” said department officials. “When (Glendale Fire Department) members see Cooper, their faces light up. He brings joy to everyone he meets and boosts morale.”

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Cooper, who will be two years old in May, holds three American Kennel Club certifications and a Therapy Dog certification. Peltier is also trained in peer support and critical incident stress and is certified in psychological first aid and pet first aid.

Heartland Fire and Rescue Department in El Cajon, California was the first fire department in the state to launch a canine therapy program. It launched as a pilot program in 2019 after disturbing statistics about firefighter suicides were released by FEMA. In partnership with K-9 Caring Angeles, an organization based in Virginia, the department acquired Yara, a black labrador retriever, who lives at the fire station. She completed her one-year probation period, marking the program as a success, and was an inspiration for cities like Glendale.

Other fire departments across California have followed suit. The Los Angeles Fire Department also has a thriving Canine Therapy program. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, first responders experience high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety from witnessing tragic incidents. To combat these alarming trends, the LAFD Canine Therapy Program was launched in December 2020. Willow, the department’s current therapy dog, assists all 3,500 members of the department, and the LAFD Foundation is attempting to secure funding for a second therapy dog. Like Cooper, Willow has undergone special training and is dispatched to different fire departments throughout the city with her handler, Chief Takeshita.

Orange County runs a similar program with a three-year-old yellow lab named Pax. Claremont’s fire department therapy dog, Jackson, went viral on TikTok thanks to clips filmed by the fire chief’s daughter. Firefighters and first responders across the state are being comforted by these adorable helpers. Next time a firefighter saves the day, do not forget to thank their dog too.