Meet Bruce the dog helping some Australian paramedics cope with stress, mental health issues (VIDEO)

Claire Roberts
Who knew belly rubs were the key to getting paramedics to open up about mental health? Bruce did! — Pic via Twitter/AmbulanceVic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Everyone loves a visit from our special four-legged animal friends but an ambulance service in Australia has taken this love to another level.

Meet Bruce, a seven-year-old golden Labrador that’s lending a helping paw to Ambulance Victoria’s paramedics and staff as part of a state peer support programme.

Starting out as part of a six-month pilot programme in May 2018, Bruce has been such a hit among workers that Ambulance Services Minister Jenny Mikakos has given the green light for 11 more dogs and handlers to join it.

Bruce was joined by Lexi (a Bernese Mountain dog), and Callie (a standard Schnauzer) in March 2019.

And just this week three Golden Retrievers (Daisy, Chomp and Ted), two Labradors (Gracie and Angus), an Australian Shepherd (Skye), a Standard Poodle (Anna), an English Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Cash), and Old English Sheepdog (Millie) and a Groodle (Boomer) joined Bruce’s crew.

In a press release from Ambulance Victoria stated that Bruce and his handler Ken Whittle play an essential role in raising awareness of mental health.

What dogs like Bruce do is provide comfort and support to paramedics who often face “traumatic and confronting emergencies” on a daily basis.

In just his first year as the lovable and highly trained Lab at Ambulance Victoria, Bruce and his handler have gone to over 260 location visits to nearly 3,000 paramedics.

Peer support dog Callie with handler Rob Simons, Bruce with Ken Whittle and Lexie with Jo Algie. — Pic courtesy of Health Victoria

The suicide rate for Victorian paramedics is four times higher than the state’s average.

Mikakos said: “These cuddly and affectionate dogs are a wonderful way to help paramedics start to talk openly about mental health in high-stress jobs.”

The Peer Support Dog programme is the first of its kind in Australia.

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