Employees with paws among new additions to paramedic services in Peterborough and Northumberland

Paramedics deploy therapy dogs to support county staff and to visit patients

Ivy Joules is Northumberland County's therapy dog in training. (Photo: Northumberland County)
Ivy Joules is Northumberland County's therapy dog in training. (Photo: Northumberland County)

It’s all paws on deck with the addition of two canines to paramedic services in both Peterborough and Northumberland counties.

Charlie, a one-and-a-half-year-old chocolate lab, joined Peterborough County and its paramedic services in November 2023.

“She has been a welcome addition to our county wellness initiatives,” Michelle Walsh, executive assistant to the paramedic chief/senior director of emergency and shared services/deputy CAO for Peterborough County/City Paramedics, told kawarthaNOW.

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“Although she is based out of our paramedic department, she regularly visits our county departments, the hospital, our patients where suitable, and our allied agencies,” Walsh said.

Charlie has visited children during a library program and comforted youngsters at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre in Peterborough during a trying time.

Charlie’s handler, Sandra Giles, shared her vision for the therapy dog initiative when the pup was introduced to the county.

Charlie is Peterborough County's therapy dog. She's pictured here in 2023 during a visit to the Trent Lakes Public Library (Photo: Trent Lakes Public Library)
Charlie is Peterborough County’s therapy dog. She’s pictured here in 2023 during a visit to the Trent Lakes Public Library (Photo: Trent Lakes Public Library)

“By including Charlie in our workplace, we are looking to promote connection, communication, and trust amongst our all our staff,” Giles said.

“Charlie will assist in bridging the gap between management and front-line staff, while creating a safe space to share variances and assist in managing challenging calls,” she noted.

“This supportive approach to our staff hopefully improves morale and create a workspace that feels calming and comfortable with Charlie around. This is a modernized approach to quality assurance and connection that we feel will greatly impact mental health and overall wellness.”

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Meanwhile, in Northumberland County, Ivy, a young golden retriever, is getting accustomed to the county building, vehicles, and other settings with her big puppy paws. She is not yet a year old and is still in training.

Susan Brown, chief of Northumberland Paramedics, told kawarthaNOW Ivy is getting a warm reception from paramedics, staff, community members and others she has met to date.

Currently, “she helps out the paramedics, she helps out county staff, and soon she’ll be doing home visits with our community (paramedicine) program — we’re really excited about that,” Brown said in a video introducing Ivy to Northumberland County residents.

VIDEO: Introducing Ivy Joules

Born in July, Ivy is about eight months old. She has a ways to go and grow, but Brown said “up to this point, she’s fitting in really, really well.”

Ivy is learning her basic commands such as “sit,” “come,” and “stay” with her training team at Northumberland Paramedics, and she’s also involved in off-site dog training with an instructor for periods ranging from seven to 14 days.

Brown said back before the COVID-19 pandemic, she had thought about having a therapy pup to support paramedics. She bought a dog Baxter but, with the restrictions of the pandemic, there wasn’t access to the necessary training. The retriever/great Pyrenees cross is now five, and Brown’s pet.

“When we came out of COVID, we thought, what could be a better time? I think we all came out of COVID all a little bit more stressed.”

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Brown receives calls from staff members in a variety of the county’s other 11 departments who wish to have a visit from Ivy. Her presence has proven to be helpful for employees during stressful times, like budget preparations, for example.

She has also been a comfort to hospital staff during high-intensity paramedic calls that land her at Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, Brown said. Ivy hasn’t been taken into the hospital just yet, but she has been embraced by staff who have stepped out of the building to visit the pup.

“Everyone is excited to see her,” the chief said.

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With more than 1,000 residents in Northumberland’s community paramedicine program, Ivy will eventually be accompanying paramedics on their visits to patients’ homes when it’s appropriate. The chief is in the process of asking patients if they’d like Ivy to tag along with their visiting paramedic.

The dog will also have visiting children in area schools and stopping by Golden Plough Lodge long-term care home in Cobourg to interact with residents on her list of duties.
Her job description will expand when she’s older, likely when she’s between 18 and 24 months old.

However, she’s already “like a natural,” Brown said.

“She’s one little puppy dog spreading smiles throughout the county.”