Future service dogs schooled on emergency response

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The sights and sounds of emergency vehicles can be scary for anyone. If you have four legs and especially sensitive hearing and smell, it can be even more upsetting.

“It can definitely complicate things,” Life EMS Ambulance paramedic Tedd VanSolkema said of situations when patients have service dogs.

So on Wednesday, Paws With A Cause trainees spent part of the day at Life’s Grand Rapids garage facing their fears.

About 15 puppies going through their initial obedience training for Paws With A Cause and their handlers hopped in and out of the back of ambulances, rode wheelchair lifts, sniffed around the equipment and medicine used by first responders and generally became acclimated to the gear.

Once the pups are done with their training, they’ll be assigned to someone with special health concerns, and those people may need emergency help from time to time. If the service dog is not ready, first responders may have another problem to deal with.

“Anytime there is a medical emergency, they’re going to pick up on that and sometimes it can be scary for them,” Julie Thorington, the national foster puppy coordinator for Paws With A Cause.

“But trainings like this really help the providers and help the dogs get use to the whole experience,” VanSolkema said.

If Wednesday’s training is any indication, despite the flashing lights, noisy sirens and other distractions, the dogs appear to be ready for the challenge.

“I’m very proud of them today,” Thorington said. “Everybody’s done really well, even with the sirens. Sometimes the noises can scare them. They’ve done great with the medical equipment, jumping in and out of the ambulances.”

Paws is always looking for volunteers to help train service dogs.

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