Dalmatians have special job offering emotional support for Memphis firefighters

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Dalmatians are doing a special job at one firehouse in Memphis.

The relationship between Dalmatians and firefighters goes back decades, but these dogs are offering more.

Patricia Belt has a strong relationship with the Dalmatians at her fire house. She even has two more of her own at home.

“Izzy is 8; she will be 8 in February. Astro is 5 years old,” she said to WREG.

She rescued all four Dalmatians and trained them to teach children fire safety, like stop, drop and roll.

She also uses their unconditional love to help firefighters like Kyle Elliot.

The Dalmatians are certified therapy dogs.

“We have no one to talk to a lot of times. Guys will come in and just talk away to the dogs. It gets that burden off their shoulders,” Belt said.

The pups travel to various fire stations after traumatic calls and work with those who were injured on the job.

They also meet behind closed doors with paramedics and firefighters suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

One thing that makes these four dogs even more special is the struggles they are also facing. All four of Belt’s Dalmatians are deaf.

“Naturally, I started communicating with hand signals and sign language,” Sweat said. "Just because you’re different or have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t find your purpose.”

Recent studies estimate that 30 percent of first responders develop behavioral health conditions that can include depression and PTSD. That’s compared to 20 percent in the general population.

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