The Psychological Awareness and Wellness Support (PAWS) program uses direct canine contact to assist Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responders who experience psychological stress.
The PAWS program uses a dog’s natural instinct to provide emotional support.
When not supporting EMS staff after traumatic calls, the PAWS team promotes mental wellness to help decrease stigma, increase resiliency and raise awareness about the resources available to support employees experiencing a psychological injury.
Erica Olson is program coordinator for PAWS as well as Delray’s first handler. The paramedic and Critical Incident Support Management (CISM) peer support team member has additional training in trauma focused animal assisted intervention, certified professional life coaching and psychology.
Delray is a 3 year old black lab. He was bred, raised and trained specifically for this type of program at the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS).
The dogs at PADS get to choose their job, and Delray prefers emotional support work over the other service dog jobs.
He has been provided to Alberta Health Services (AHS) EMS through a partnership with PADS.