Roanoke Fire-EMS’ foster dog program helps shelter animals, first responders

Dogs get a second chance at life and help first responders cope with stress

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke Fire-EMS’ newest employee has already earned herself a reputation. Audi, the 3-year-old dog, is a couch potato who loves getting pets, giving kisses and exploring her new surroundings.

For the past couple of months, she was at the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection, picked up as a stray.

Rachel Hale, the fire department’s community risk reduction specialist, started the foster program to help dogs like Audi get exposure in the community and find a forever home.

Last month we told you about Caiden, the department’s first-ever foster dog, who found his forever home with a firefighter.

“It gives them a second chance at life,” said Hale.

The shelter is an open intake center, meaning if an animal comes to them, they have to make room. Some dogs who are aggressive or develop behavioral problems from being stressed out in the shelter, may need to be put down.

That’s why Foster Coordinator Ciara Metz says the shelter needs more foster homes.

“They don’t have to do anything other than give them love, and, you know, make sure that they’re safe and they’re eating and everything’s good,” said Metz.

Audi’s not the only one with a smile on her face. Capt. Robert Reid says Audi’s made a huge impact on the crew.

“She found a spot on the recliner up there and doesn’t seem to want to move too much from it just yet,” said Reid.

First responders are more likely to suffer from PTSD or depression than the general population. Thirty percent compared to 20 percent.

“You see things that you find hard to believe. It will impact you,” said Reid. “It’ll impact you immediately and then it’ll also impact you long-term.”

What better way to unwind, than next to a four-legged friend.

“They’re going to give you unconditional love right back and not worry about your day,” said Reid. “And put a really good smile on your face. And she’s done a good job of that.”

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

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