The Psychological Awareness and Wellness Support (PAWS) program uses a specialized paramedic/canine team to support Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responders who experience first response work-related stress.
The PAWS program uses a trauma-informed approach which focuses on emotional and psychological safety. The PAWS dog’s natural instinct for human engagement enhances the psychological support environment.
When not supporting EMS staff after challenging calls, the PAWS Team provides mental health focused education to help decrease stigma, increase resiliency and raise awareness about the resources available to employees experiencing a psychological injury.
Erica Olson is program coordinator for PAWS as well as Delray’s handler. She is a paramedic and Critical Incident Support Management (CISM) peer support team member. She has additional training in trauma-focused animal facilitated wellness, she is certified in professional life coaching and studies psychology in her ongoing education.
Delray is a 4.5 year old black lab. He was bred, raised and trained specifically for this type of work at PADS. He was selected for the PAWS program because of his ability to be calm, confident and often joyful in a wide variety of environments.
The dogs at PADS get to choose their job and Delray prefers emotional and psychological support work over the other assistance dog jobs.
He has been provided to Alberta Health Services (AHS) EMS through a partnership with PADS.