AMR's new therapy dog aims to help first responders cope

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- First responders run into danger and chaos when others flee -- and sometimes what they experience leaves a lasting impact.

Stryker, a 6-month-old Goldendoodle, recently came to Topeka's American Medical Response to help first responders cope with trauma.

"[Stryker brings] just happiness and joy.” AMR Operations Manager Jon Antrim said. “I mean when they come to work you hear them yelling his name, chasing him around the operation, loving on him, roughhousing with him, just everybody does different things with him."

AMR started developing a national therapy dog team for employees after seeing the difference it made for responders in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting.

Stryker is still working to complete several certifications to be considered a full-fledged therapy dog.

"When you see him run up to you it’s a very happy feeling and it can instantly change your mood." Paramedic Alicia Hysten said.

It’s a bond that goes far beyond simply petting a dog, Stryker helps them move past the bad days.

"Its just very comforting it reminds us on some hard days that there's still joy in life," Hysten recalled.

Antrim explained that day in day out first responders see the worst of the worst.

“We see things that people shouldn't see. I guess there's a persona that we should just keep it to ourselves and be the tough one and be the strong one and something as simple as Stryker really has positive impacts.” Antrim said. “When our employees have bad days, long days, hard days, you know they come in and they look for him just to spend some time and play with him and he’s been a tremendous asset to our organization."

Stryker also will start traveling around Shawnee County to comfort victims of trauma.

AMR says they chose a Goldendoodle because they're hypoallergenic for those who might be sensitive to animal dander.