As we reflect back on this unique year, there's one thing that's for certain: our pets are with no doubt, one of 2020's MVPs. From providing us with their companionship to giving back to our overall health and well-being, we're not quite sure where we'd be without them. Outside of our homes, there are pets who are giving back in an even bigger way. We caught up with one of our very own Open Farm dogs, Kerith, and her Mom, Heidi, who have played a role in boosting morale among firefighters along the West Coast, where the wildfires have hit hard this past Summer. We were so inspired by Kerith's work, that we are donating 2,100 meals to Sonoma County Animal Services County.

Who is Kerith and what is her role in her community?

Kerith is a 2 year old Golden Retriever. She and I are a certified therapy dog team and a certified crisis response team. In our community we visit fire stations, hospitals, police departments and dispatchers.

What made you decide to train Kerith to become a therapy dog? How did she come to specialize in helping emergency workers?

I raised Kerith as a puppy for Guide Dogs for the Blind. She was born to grow up to be a working guide for a visually  impared individual. When she was 14 months old it was decided that she was not suited for guide dog work as she was extremely solicitous for attention from every person she saw so she was ‘Career Changed.” She had always been so friendly to every person she met that I knew she would be a very good therapy dog. Therapy dogs need to love people more than anything! After she was certified through Pet Partners we began volunteering in the emergency department of our local hospital , there she met firefighter paramedics who brought their patients in. Kerith loves everyone but she loves firefighters the most. I really have no idea why but it has been a match made in heaven from the very start.  After meeting the fire service personnel in the ER they began to request Kerith visits at their stations. So we went! 

What does a day in the life for Kerith look like?

Kerith and I enjoy going to the beach, hiking and trail running. She loves swimming and running!! Of course our favorite activity is going to fire stations to visit her firefighter friends and bring them joy. At home she likes to cuddle up and nap with her siblings. April a 3 year old lab, Belle a 16 year old terrier mix (she is a pup we adopted who survived the Katrina Hurricane and lost her family) and Tiger our cat. Kerith and Tiger love each other, infact Tiger grooms Kerith, an activity they both seem to enjoy.

Kerith is loving her Open Farm food. Her favorite is Homestead Turkey and Ancient Grains recipe. All the dogs are obsessed with the Dehydrated Turkey dog treats!

What has Kerith taught you?

Kerith has taught me the power of unconditional love. She has also taught me how therapy dogs can make a huge impact on someone's life. When a firefighter spends time with Kerith their body produces all the feel good chemicals, endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin. Because I am at the end of her leash I am experiencing these same physiological effects. I feel so lucky to share my life with Kerith. I have the best therapy dog with me 24/7. I am happy most of the time, Kerith is doing her job.

If people want to learn more about Kerith or therapy dogs, where can they go?

People can learn all about Kerith’s every move on her Instagram page (@kerith_the_golden_retriever) and Twitter (@goldenkerith)

They can learn about therapy dogs at the Pet Partners website www.petpartners.org