GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The piercing sound of an ambulance siren headed down the block can be upsetting to humans — it’s the same for our four-legged companions.

Service dog provider Paws With a Cause once again teamed up with Life EMS Ambulance to help acclimate future assistance dogs to all of the things they may experience if the client they’re assisting needs an ambulance.

“Our community that we serve does have medical conditions. So it helps to prepare the puppy when they are placed as an assistance dog,” Julie Thorington, foster puppy coordinator for Paws With a Cause, said. “The gurneys moving up and down. The lights. The sirens. The smells of the medical equipment are all something that would be novel to the dog. It’s not something you typically have in your household. “

About nine future service dogs, ranging in age from 16 weeks to 1-year-old, took part in the event at Life EMS’s Grand Rapids Headquarters.  

“Puppies are like sponges. So anything you can expose them to at this age will stick with them through life.” Thorington said. “We have had some dogs that have had to ride in the ambulance with the clients to the hospital and stay in there with them.” 

And it’s just not the dogs being trained. The lesson is also valuable to Life medics, especially when the service dog comes along on the ride to the hospital.

“It’s just very reassuring that they don’t have to be on edge because I’ve got this service dog alongside the patient,” Mark Meijer, president and founder of Life EMS Ambulance, said. “It gives them a sense of knowing that you really don’t need to provide many commands because the dog knows what the drill is.”

The exercise, which has come to be known as Operation Puppy Love, has become an annual event at Life.  

There’s another benefit to this training day for the paramedics.

“Nothing lowers the blood pressure for all of us than having all these puppies running around here,” Meijer said.

Paws With a Cause is always looking for volunteers to foster puppies. If you’re interested, just click here.