San Antonio dogs to provide comfort to first responders of El Paso shooting

Methodist Healthcare System deploys three Facility First Responder dogs

By Alicia Barrera - Multimedia Journalist, Ken Huizar - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Shortly after Saturday's El Paso shooting, Methodist Healthcare System San Antonio began making calls to deploy some of their finest members to assist in the aftermath.

The dogs have been trained by Service Dogs, and their training goes beyond that of a therapy animal. Their purpose is to provide relief for first responders during situations of stress, trauma and grief.

Three dogs will be deployed: Chanel, Rudy and Lady.

Lee Stanphill, Emergency Medical Services relations manager for Methodist Health Care System and Rudy's handler says he volunteered the moment the news broke.

"I had to get it approved by the administrators at (Methodist Healthcare System) as well as (Del Sol Hospital in) El Paso," Stanphill said.

Chanel's handler, Brandon Miller said, "It's one of those things we hope we never have to go out for, but it's what these dogs are trained for."

The dogs wear a red vest outline in black with the Service Dogs, Inc. logo and a their name badge that helps identify they're trained for crisis management.

"You will actually see them head straight for the person that is displaying the most distress. It's pretty amazing to watch," Stanphill said. "It also lightens (the spirit) for family members, patients (and) first responders."

Once in El Paso, the dogs will report to their sister hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, to carry out their mission to provide comfort and care in the midst of chaos and pain.

Miller says interacting with the dogs gives hospital staff a sense of normalcy in their day. "Our first responders and hospital staff see so much every day. A lot of times, there's never really an opportunity to process that tie the end of their shift," Miller said.

The dogs have a big job to do that in turn will also take a toll on them.

"It's very taxing on them, especially when there's a lot of high emotions involved. They need their chance and opportunity to go home and be a dog and play and de-stress as well," Stanphill said.

The dogs will spend a few days making their rounds at the El Paso hospitals, aiding shooting victims as well as interacting with victims and their loved ones at the family reunification center.

For more information on Service Dogs, Inc. and their role as the only facility of its kind in Texas, visit their website.

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