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Therapy dog joins Snoqualmie Fire Department as stress reliever

Phoebe is a one-year-old Goldendoodle who helps firefighters and emergency crews through the stresses of their jobs.

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. — The newest member of the Snoqualmie Fire Department has four legs and a wavy cream-colored fur coat.

Phoebe, a one-year-old Goldendoodle (golden retriever and poodle cross), is a certified therapy dog. She was brought on in December to help firefighters relieve the stress and strain of emergency response.

"If you're sitting on the floor, she'll come over to you and lean into you. People start petting her and don't even know it. It's something calming," said volunteer firefighter Lorrie Jones. She and firefighter Matt Mundy manage the department's therapy dog program and participated in Phoebe's training.

In 2017, more firefighters died by suicide than in the line of duty, according to a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation. In light of this, the Snoqualmie Fire Department decided to be proactive. Members started thinking outside the box and looking for ways to support the crew.

An internet search led them to K-9 Caring Angels, an organization that places therapy dogs with soldiers, veterans, and first responders. K-9 Caring Angels  donated Phoebe to the department. 

Jones and Mundy traveled to Virginia to pick out the dog out and bring her back to Snoqualmie. The Snoqualmie Firefighters Association and local pet businesses cover Phoebe's upkeep expenses (food, haircuts, vet care) so there is no cost to taxpayers.

Phoebe already has her own Instagram, and is making herself at home in the firehouse, where she lives full time. She does not go out on service calls but can be a resource for community members dealing with tragedies.

"A lot of times, we have families who come back to the station just for peace of closure or to say thank you," Jones said. "She just has such a calm demeanor I think she has a high awareness of the energy in the room or what people are feeling."