ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The job of a firefighter is not only challenging physically, but it can take a mental toll.
One local resident discovered how something as simple as the comfort of a food and a pet can uplift the spirits in a firehouse.
“Dogs just…tend to bring joy out of people,” said North Park Firefighter Ryan Barker.
Barker says he appreciates the department’s comfort dog, Truckie.
“I definitely think, in firehouses, it’s good to have a dog come around and interact with the people on the job and spend time in the firehouse,” he said. “And it just, overall, has a positive impact. It really does.”
Becca Sprague started Truckie’s company when she realized how a dog lifted the spirits of firefighters at her mother’s station.
Now, she’s spreading that positive impact to other departments by getting Truckie certified to become a therapy dog, with the help of the Greg Lindmark Foundation.
“At first, I was paying for all of this out of my own pocket. I mean, his care, his schooling, everything. And the Foundation, they stepped in and said we want to help you,” she said.
The Foundation believes Becca and Truckie’s mission aligns with their goal of reducing stress and trauma on first responders.
“We’ve experienced a firefighter suicide many years ago,” said North Park Fire Chief Joel Hallstrom. “It was a very close friend of mine. And, you know, we don’t know for sure what caused him to be at that level of discomfort in his life or whatever caused it, but if the fire department was part of it, it’s my job to make sure we do everything we can to try and eliminate that kind of stress.”
Hallstrom says he knows the importance of keeping his crew happy. That’s why he welcomed Becca and her special dog with open arms.
“We showed up with pizza,” Becca said. “I think the Foundation ended up buying like 12 or 16 pizzas. They were all set up here.”
Hallstrom added, “My thing is that, the atmosphere is key and if he’s a part of making that atmosphere better then I’m all for it.”
“I’m very close with these people,” Becca said. “I would do anything for any of them in a heartbeat. Me, being able to do this for them, is the greatest thing I could ask for. I feel so lucky to get to do this for them.”