San Francisco firehouse welcomes specially-trained therapy dogs

Sometimes those who come to our rescue just need someone to come to theirs.

That's where Sadie and Marley come in.

They are two specially trained facility dogs, both Labradors, who officially joined the San Francisco Fire Department Tuesday after several months of probation.

"These dogs are really helping firefighters get through the day. Get through all the struggles we are having," said Lt. Christine Gibbs.

The day-to-day stress on first responders can be brutal.

"It's hard to come in at 8 a.m. and the first call you have is telling a 90-year-old woman we did all we could for her husband, but they've passed away. Now I have to work 24 more hours with that on my head," she said.

One firefighter recalled a tragedy at Fort Funston when a cliff collapsed onto a 22-year-old woman three years ago and killed her.

"That triggered a post-traumatic stress that I didn't even identify until a few weeks later," said Lt. Catherine Alba.

More firefighters die by suicide nationally, than are killed in the line of duty.

Under this pilot program, when firefighters come back from a difficult call or a series of difficult calls, Sadie or Marley will be paying a visit.

"It just makes us feel grounded and connected to something other than the trauma we are dealing with every day," said Gibbs.

The dogs are trained for about a year by Thor's Hope Foundation in San Diego County. The dogs with the right stuff, great temperament, good in crowds, not shaken by loud noises, then spend a year in training.

"Top notch obedience skills. Top-notch. That means they are great in public. They're polite," said Christina Macone-Greene from Thor's Hope Foundation.

San Francisco is the first Bay Area fire department to have facility dogs.  Los Angeles County and Modesto Fire Departments already use them.

The fire department says if all goes well with Sadie and Marley, they hope to add even more dogs to the firefighter family.