Therapy dogs, including herding mix Blake, Labrador retriever mix Abby and cairn terrier Suzy Q, brought smiles to Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Services personnel when Fort Leavenworth Human Animal Bond, Inc. attended three days of appreciation luncheons for EMS technicians July 7-9 in Leavenworth.
The event was meant to thank personnel for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to make up for the absence of the normal appreciation events during National EMS Week in May. The HAB visits and cookouts were offered over three days to accommodate EMS shifts.
“Normally hospitals invite us over for cookouts and stuff like that, and they really weren’t able to participate in anything like that,” said Brian Bailey, Leavenworth County EMS assistant director. “The hospitals did deliver here so that was pretty cool, but we really wanted to do something extra.
“These guys have had to be in N95 masks and gowns and gloves and goggles in the vast majority of our patient contacts, and we just wanted to do something as a thank you to them for suffering through this with that equipment on and doing a great job in it,” he said.
Bailey organized the cookout with Pat Morey, Leavenworth County EMS operations manager, and Michelle Westfall, Leavenworth EMS training officer, coordinated with HAB, an organization comprised of teams of volunteers and their therapy-certified pets.
“It felt like (HAB) would be a really good addition,” Westfall said. Bailey agreed.
“They say everyone’s blood pressure drops when you pet dogs, so, if nothing else, we’re providing them a break from the day,” he said.
Candy Bowman, HAB director, said she and the other volunteers were happy to bring their dogs for a visit.
“It’s something different, something to bring some smiles and some emotional happiness to everything that has been stressful and maybe not the best news for everybody,” Bowman said.
“(It’s an opportunity) to just let them relax and say thanks for everything they have done and continue to do and will continue to do.”
Misty Sargent, Leavenworth County EMS support, said the EMS personnel were excited for the visit.
“Who doesn’t love dogs?” she asked.
Natalie McGinnis, paramedic, said the visit made her day.
“(The dogs) are very comforting, and I feel like they’re all knowing and embrace you,” McGinnis said. “Just like when you have a hard day and come through the door and they greet you.”
Jack Stallbaumer, paramedic, said he thought that the effort of the event showed that the administrators appreciate their hard work. Stallbaumer spent some of the cookout showing his appreciation for the dogs by bestowing head rubs and belly scratches.