From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 26, 2020 -- An adorable 2-year-old golden retriever is offering comfort to firefighters battling a large wildfire in Northern California.

Kerith, a certified therapy dog, has been visiting the Woodward wildfire base camp daily to lift first responders’ spirits.

Marin County firefighter John Aitchison tells the Today show that having a furry friend around has been therapeutic. “We are tasked with things that push our limits,” he says. “And having something like a dog brings some type of normalcy back into our lives.”

“These fires are getting longer and longer, and we’re spending more and more time away from our families,” he says. “A golden retriever, one of the happiest things in the world, just reminds you of home.”

Kerith was supposed to be a guide dog for the blind, but she “changed careers” when she was 14 months old. Now, her handler, Heidi Carman, says she’s a natural at supporting firefighters in need.

“They’ve told me that Kerith makes them feel ‘important, loved, and special,’ ” she tells Today. “Often, the firefighters won’t talk about their feelings, but if there’s a dog there, then it helps for them to open up and feel like they can talk.”

Interacting with animals has been linked to lower levels of cortisol -- a stress-related hormone -- and lower blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some studies have even found that animals can help reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.

Show Sources

Today: “Kerith the golden retriever is offering comfort to California firefighters.”

Instagram: @kerith_the_golden_retriever, Aug. 21, 2020.

National Institutes of Health: “The Power of Pets.”

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