Pre-dawn, less than 24 hours after the Walmart massacre, three Emergency Services Facility Dogs trained by Service Dogs, Inc. deployed to El Paso and their partners to offer comfort to resolute first responders and a devastated community.
“First responders, nurses, doctors, non-critical staff in hospitals, they all assume a level of emotional burden with whatever they’re dealing with,” explained Frankie Trifilio, EMS Relations Manager with Methodist Healthcare System (MHS) in San Antonio. SDI teamed him up with Lady, an affectionate yellow Lab.
Together with Chanel, handled by Brandon Miller and Rudy handled by Lee Stanphill, both also EMS Relations Managers for MHS, they saw 2600 emergency responders and community members over the next six days.
“The dogs are able to sense those people out and help them work through those emotions and allow them to deal with them,” said Frankie in an interview with Access Hollywood. “They’re a gateway to let people talk a little more about what they’re dealing with, the emotions that they’ve had. Even sometimes, just asking the question as to why. ‘Why did this happen?”
The teams spent most of their time at Del Sol, Methodist’s sister hospital. They also worked at the command center set up at the Walmart where state troopers and local law enforcement were reviewing CCTV footage. One officer said it was the first time any of them had smiled since they arrived. The teams made sure to stop by El Paso’s 911 call center to visit the dispatchers.
“The folks that we met are very resilient. They’re very passionate about that they’re going to get through this,” said Brandon Miller in the same interview. Brandon came up with the idea of asking to SDI train Facility Dogs to help at Methodist, which employs 10,000 professionals over ten hospitals and twenty-six paramedic stations. He received the first dog, Chanel, a graceful Golden Retriever – Lab mix, with a special knack for sensing the person in the most need and making a beeline for them.
“In El Paso, we had one of the nurses tell us that this made the hospital feel like it did before the shooting,” he said.
Lee StanphiIl, who received Rudy, the largest and most laid back of the three dogs, spoke about visiting 911 dispatchers. “At the communications center, we were speaking with some of the dispatchers. One of them made the comment that after we visited with the dogs that this really made it worth coming to work today.
So it had a very large impact on those first responders, as well. They have to sit behind the consoles of the dispatch centers and answer the 911 calls.”
Service Dogs, Inc. is proud of the work Frankie, Brandon and Lee do everyday with Lady, Chanel and Rudy. These teams work around the clock in San Antonio and literally go the extra mile when duty calls. We are especially proud that they answered the call to help during this mass crisis.
Frankie concluded the interview saying, “El Paso is a very strong and resilient community and they’re going to get through this. We’re going to be here for them.”
In the year since this time, SDI placed a fourth Emergency Services Facility Dog, with Jason Miller, also an EMS Relations Manager at MHS. Fresca, as everyone calls her, is an elegant yellow Lab who is quickly building up her own fan base.
Lee Stanphill accepted a position as Battalion Chief for the Bexar County Fire Rescue, ESD 7 in San Antonio, so Rudy has a new base of operations.
SDI just accepted Sharla Dillman, Director of EMS Relation, Rio Grande Regional Hospital, Valley Regional Medical Center in McAllen and Brownsville.
“Our guys are saying, ‘We needed this dog yesterday’,” Sharla says.
If you would like to chip in to help with our training program, it’s easy. Just click on the button below.
Rachel (USAF) and her family and Hearing Dog Avery
Rhea (US Marines) with Service Dog Beatrice
Rachel served our countryas a member of the United States Air Force. Now a full time teacher in Fort Worth and mother of three, she wants a Hearing Dog to make sure her children are always safe.
“My then 2 year old daughter accidentally turned the stove on,” she wrote in her application to Service Dogs, Inc. “I did not know there was a fire in the kitchen until my husband smelled it from the back of the house and came running in.”
Rachel and her husband Mauricio, a Marine, learned sign language in 2018. Taylor Smith, one of our trainers, helped communicate at matching by signing during their visit to SDI to meet Avery. We previously conducted Rachel’s applicant interview virtually, using Google Meet, which has easy to use captioning.
When we introduced her to Avery, everyone could tell it was meant to be. She was calm around Rachel and Mauricio’s 10-month old daughter even when she squealed with delight and petted her.
Rachel teaches pre-K deaf education at Waverly Park Elementary School in Fort Worth. She plans to take Avery with her to the classroom, where she is sure to be a big hit with the students.
Rachel and Avery will be in our August 5-day Team Training Class.
Rhea served in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines. Since losing his wife recently, maintaining his farm in Fayetteville, Texas, has become more challenging. Rhea has lots of friends; but, in the country, people are separated and you need to be self-sufficient.
We introduced Rhea to Beatrice this past Tuesday. Rhea wants his Service Dog to perform lots of tasks. That’s just how Beatrice, a real professional, prefers it. Helping with laundry, pulling open doors in a town without any automatic door buttons, and retrieving all manner of items will keep Beatrice happy and fulfilled.
We are customizing Beatrice’s training over the next month, to fit Rhea’s needs. He has a lot of pain in his left shoulder. That makes it uncomfortable for him to move his arm in front of him, the typical place we train our dogs to deliver retrieved objects. As you’ll see in the video, Rhea has more mobility reaching to his left to accept an item from Beatrice.
We are excited to bring Rhea and Beatrice back together in our September Team Training Class. Bonus for Susan Ramsbottom, who will be Rhea’s in-home trainer. He lives five miles from Hruska’s Store & Bakery, famous for its kolaches and other homemade treats with hungry travelers on Highway 71 through Ellinger, Texas an hour outside of Houston.
Service Dogs, Inc. invests $50,000 and a year to train each team. We provide follow up for the lifetime of each dog. Your donation lets our clients receive their dogs free of charge. Please chip in to help sponsor Avery and Beatrice!
Photographers: Rachel and Avery photos: CJ Christensen; Rhea and Beatrice photos and video: Sheri Soltes
Trying out a customized left-side delivery for Rhea
International Assistance Dog Week
August 2 – 8
Celebrate with a Monthly Gift
International Assistance Dog Week was created to recognize all of the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations.
During International Assistance Dog Week, we recognize and honor the hardworking assistance dogs; raise awareness and educate the public about how these specially trained animals are aiding so many people in our communities; honor the puppy raisers and trainers of assistance dogs; and recognize heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs in our communities.