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Fire Station In Tampa Bay Area Gets First Mental Health Dog

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - One local fire station has its very own mental health therapy dog. It's the first therapy dog designated to firefighters in the Tampa Bay Area.

At the North River Fire District, the new mental health dog named Drew, right here, is changing the whole morale of the station, and officials say he's helping firefighters after they respond to traumatic calls.

"We see most everyone on their worst days so we try to do our best and be professionals. Drew kind of comes back and be a human again," said firefighter, Michael Davila.

We all know the saying "A man's best friend…" but what about a first responder's best friend?

"He'll come and run up to you, give a nice little lick and you can pet him, he's always happy to see you," said Davila.

For the firefighters at the North River Fire District, this little golden retriever named Drew is their best friend.

"You walk into a room and he makes you smile. He's really happy, he has a really good demeanor," said another firefighter, Matt Stone.

Drew was given to the North River Fire District six weeks ago from a local organization called Southeastern Guide Dogs, which also has a dog therapy program. Since then Joe Sicking, Assistant Fire Chief, says Drew has made a huge difference.

"It can be very stressful at times and I have seen the place turn over with drew around and the demeanor in the office and the general attitudes. It's an amazing thing to see," said Sicking.

Drew is the first dog in the Tampa Bay Area to become a therapy dog for a fire department.

"He rides with battalion chiefs, visits fire houses, visits crews after they run traumatic incidents," said Sicking.

Stone says he thinks every fire station need a dog like Drew.

"Firefighter suicides are a really scary thing and I think if something like drew or, we also have other resources, that we can reach out, but the simplest thing is a dog," said Stone.

For many firefighters, like Davila, Drew has become more than just a therapy dog.

"We rely on who we work with a lot, we're like a big family," said Davila.

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