LONDON, ONT -- Having worked with therapy dogs for nearly 15years, Brad Dodd and his wife Sara decided to start The Phoenix Canine Initiative, which focuses on first responders who are facing trauma in their day-to-day life.

“We realized a huge difference - what dogs bring to the table, just in my personal life, and what I’ve gone through in my career as a firefighter- we really realized there was a massive difference with the dogs and how they interacted with us on a different level,” said Dodd.

Dodd is the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team co-ordinator with the London Fire Department. He is hoping to incorporate the therapy dogs in the program and bring awareness to how much canine therapy can help first responders.

London Firefighter Charlie Moir says the program has many benefits.

“It makes everything more light and easy, a lot of people love puppies, they just walk around and you get to pet them. It takes your mind off (the work) and allows you to open up a bit better, and you just feel like you’re in a space with friends telling them whatever is bugging you."

Since its inception in 2016, the program has grown. There are currently 11 dogs that make visits to various London fire stations, St. Thomas police, Elgin EMS, and the Middlesex-London Paramedics Services.

The pandemic has put a pause on these visits, but Dodd and his wife Sara are hoping to start making the visits again once the government pandemic restrictions are eased. 

The couple trains all the puppies and makes sure they pass testing, before they go into the community as therapy dogs.

The Phoenix Canine Initiative holds an annual fundraiser that helps fund their grassroots charity with their operating costs.

This year they are selling calendars that feature photos of the adorable puppies with the community they serve.

Dodd says the calendars have taken off, and they’ve seen great success, selling copies worldwide.

If you are interested in purchasing one of the calendars, you can visit The Phoenix Canine Initiative Facebook page.