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The idea that interacting with the Newfoundlands in the water might help with feelings of stress and even perhaps some mental health issues came about accidentally.

A colleague of Pete’s who also worked on the ambulance service was going through a very difficult time. There were personal issues in her home life and the stress of the job itself was mounting up. After a run of particularly awful jobs, including attending murder scenes and patients who had died by suicide, Petes colleague was signed off work and hit rock bottom.

Diagnosed with clinical depression and severe anxiety, it was difficult to even get out of bed some days and her interaction with other people became less and less. Pete knew his colleague – Tracie – had dogs of her own and saw how much she relied on them for support. He asked her if she would like to go out to help with a training session with his dogs and help him in the water. Although she agreed, when the day came, the effort of actually getting there was almost too much. At the time Tracie was struggling with depression and constant thoughts of ending her life. Although she did manage to be there on the day she had no enthusiasm and felt that she just wanted to get away.

However, something quite amazing happened once she was in the water. As she waited in the water, alone, and with the burden of her thoughts, Pete and his dogs (Boris and Tugs at that time) swam out to her and as she held on to that giant of a dog and felt him tow her safely to shore, something changed. She felt rescued – not just physically, but mentally too. It was hard to explain how that swim felt – the calm and the peace it brought that day, and it was something that over the weeks and months would continue to help and kickstart her recovery and return to work and life.

Tracie is now part of the team, helping others to access that feeling, along with several other members of the emergency services who have themselves benefitted from the support they have received from interacting with the Dogs.

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