Bonsall, CA–Performance K9 Training presented the Modesto Fire Department Friday with a therapy dog to firefighters during an official ceremony in Bonsall.
The 15-minute ceremony included the official “handing off” of Hudson from his dog trainer and world competitor, David Greene, of Performance K9 Training and Thor’s Hope Foundation, to his new handler, Captain Ruben Esparza of the Modesto Fire Department.
First responders, including firefighters, regularly deal with occupational stress. Hudson is specially trained to support firefighters with post-traumatic stress or high-level anxiety. The canine will join the City of Modesto Fire Department as part of a new program.
Donated by Thor’s Hope Foundation in partnership with Performance K9 Training, Incorporated., Hudson was specially bred and selected to complete intense specialized training to support firefighters in various settings and situations. The average cost of a facility dog of this caliber is $10,000 and was gifted to the fire department.
David Greene, the Director of Training of both Performance K9 Training and Thor’s Hope Foundation, shared how Hudson will assist the department by identifying individuals experiencing increased stress and comforting them.
“Hudson comes at a time when there’s a growing need for mental health support for first responders. In the most recent past, the number of firefighter suicides nationwide has surpassed the number of line-of-duty deaths,” said Cpt. Esparza. “First responders are chronically exposed to many stress-inducing situations regularly.”
Modesto firefighters face ever-growing call volume and amplified exposure due to many factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year alone, firefighters in the Modesto Fire Department responded to a combined 33,198 calls for service. Fire union leaders and fire administration agree mental and physical health concerns are of great importance.
“The addition of Hudson is intended to help first responders manage the stress and anxiety in their profession,” said Cpt. Esparza.
When ‘on duty,’ Hudson will wear a vest identifying his status with the fire department. Cpt. Esparza trained with Greene to help transfer the skills required to maintain Hudson’s top-shelf obedience skills. Greene noted that Hudson and Cpt. Esparza has a wonderful future ahead of them.
“We are thankful to Thor’s Hope Foundation and Performance K9 Training for helping add Hudson to our lineup,” Esparza said.