As Cortana slowly approached firefighter Justin Leal, those present were silent on Saturday at Greater Naples Fire Rescue Station 75.
The only sound that could be heard was from the fully equipped Leal’s oxygen mask as he waited for the Labrador Retriever service dog.
Cortana immediately felt comfortable with Leal. It could have had something to do with the piece of hot dog Leal was holding. The high quality enjoyment for the service dog was for a job well done.
It was all part of a training exercise for eight service dogs and eight Topaz Assistance Dogs volunteers. The exercise is used to introduce the service dogs, most of whom were 7 months old, and others who were a year and two years old, to the firefighters who might one day help them provide assistance to their partners.
While firefighters and rescue workers are first responders, service dogs are on the front line every day for people with disabilities, including mobility issues, autism, seizures and diabetes.
“There is no question that they are their first,” said Eway Battalion Chief Dwayne Watson. “Any medical emergency is a highly stressful situation. When it comes to someone who is dependent on a service dog, anything that can be done to familiarize them with us can help make the situation easier, especially while we are trying to treat this disease. is a good thing. “
The Topaz volunteers and trainees also had an underlying motive for their visit on Saturday.
A bushfire that began on May 22nd and reached 1,500 acres at one point in Golden Gate Estates forced the evacuation of the Topaz Kennel on 12th Avenue Southeast, very near where the fire was near the Desoto Boulevard South and 14th Avenue Southeast began.
More:Arid conditions and high heat continue as crews work to contain the Golden Gate Estates’ bushfire
More:Topaz Assistance Dogs offers people with disabilities a new leash for life
Firefighters from a number of different companies, including the greater Naples area, prevented the fire from damaging the main structures of the kennel.
Topaz founder Shoshana Tanner and other volunteers were in Orlando for a training session when the fire started. Volunteer Maya Maranz made her way to the kennel next to a retired firefighter and found that the fire was near the main structures.
Maran evacuated six dogs and a cat in her Toyota Camry to the Big Cypress German Sheperd Rescue while two goats were taken to Alyssa’s shelter.
While Tanner is happy to be back on Topaz’s five-acre property after the fires are contained, the organization wanted to show their gratitude. The sign read: “Thank you, firefighters, for saving our kennel.” The sign was clearly displayed on the company’s fire truck.
“We wanted to make sure they knew how grateful we were for their hard work,” said Tanner. “They are heroes all the time.”
Leal spent three long days on duty fighting the bushfire, enjoying a simpler but no less important task before he was given two much-needed days off.
“That’s what we signed up for,” said Leal.
During his five year career, most of his interactions with service dogs have been with those whose partners are suffering from seizures. However, he said that every situation was different and welcomed Saturday’s practice session.
“You never know. You could get into a situation where someone is passed out and the only one who can lead you to them is their service dog,” Leal said.
Tanner said Topaz is breeding his dogs and starting training at three days.
The service dogs Alexa, Siri and Cortana were in the middle of their second training with firefighters and rescue workers. Max, Fiona and Lake were first-time visitors.
“These situations could really mean the difference between life and death for the client and the dog,” said Tanner. “You hope it never happens, but you have to prepare for the worst.”
In addition to meeting a firefighter in full gear, the service dogs took photos with their new firefighter friends on the company engine and were exposed to the loud sirens of the engine.
Almost all of the service dogs showed no signs of fear of the roar of sirens and were rightly rewarded.
“It was a very successful training session. We look forward to another trip,” said Tanner. “But as you can see, most of them are pretty tired. It’s been pretty eventful. Now you are ready to call it a day.”