therapy dog

When a person gets to a point where they are actively considering taking their own life, helping them out of that state is a delicate endeavor. Sometimes a major intervention is necessary. Sometimes being reminded by an anonymous stranger that life is worth living is helpful. And sometimes, a non-human touch can be the catalyst that pulls someone away from the edge.

When first responders were called to a bridge near Exeter in southwestern England where a woman was standing over the guard rails, threatening to take her own life, the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) showed up to help. In a post on Twitter, DSFRS explained that multiple agencies had responded to the scene, and that police negotiations weren't going particularly well.

"The situation was becoming increasingly worrying," they wrote.


While humans struggled to reach the woman, a therapy dog showed up to save the day.

"One of the fire crews had the idea to bring along Digby, our 'defusing' dog," they explained. "Digby helps crews who have been exposed to trauma during talking therapy 'diffusing' sessions."

Digby is a 3-year-old Australian Labradoodle who has been with the department since he was four months old.

"When Digby arrived, the young woman immediately swung her head round to look, and smiled. This got a conversation started about Digby and his role at the fire service," they wrote.

"She was asked if she would like to come and meet Digby if she came back over the railings, which we are pleased to say she did."

"We wish the woman involved all the best in her recovery," they added.

How amazing that Digby not only helps first responders deal with their own trauma, but he also helped save this young woman in her darkest hour.

Hopefully, the woman gets the help she needs to live a satisfying life—and perhaps that help could include a therapy animal of her own.

According to UCLA Health, animal-assisted therapy provides many physical and mental health benefits to patients. "The simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response," the university's website states. "Human interacting with animals have found that petting the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin—all hormones that can play a part in elevating moods."

UCLA says Animal therapy also:

  • Lowers anxiety and helps people relax.
  • Provides comfort.
  • Reduces loneliness.
  • Can provide an escape or happy distraction.
  • Can act as a catalyst in the therapy process, breaking the ice or reducing initial resistance to therapy.

Maybe dogs really are a human's best friend. We certainly are better off as a species with our animal companions by our side.

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