Service dogs, volunteers thank Greater Naples firefighters at training


As Cortana slowly strode toward firefighter Justin Leal, those in attendance Saturday at  Greater Naples Fire Rescue Station 75 were silent. 

Shoshana Tanner, the executive director of Topaz Assistance Dogs introduces Cortana to Justin Leal, a firefighter with Greater Naples, Station 75 at the station in Golden Gate on Saturday, May 29, 2021. A group of volunteers and clients with dogs from Topaz stopped into the fire house for training on how to deal with firefighters in gear and loud noises associated with firefighters. They also wanted to say thank you for helping save their property from the wildfires last week.

The only sound that could be heard came from the fully-geared-up Leal’s oxygen mask as he waited for the labrador retriever service dog.

Cortana was immediately comfortable with Leal. It could’ve had something to do with the piece of hot dog Leal had in his hand. The high-value treat for the service dog was for a job well done. 

It was all part of a training exercise for eight service dogs and eight volunteers from Topaz Assistance Dogs.  The exercise is used to familiarize the service dogs, most of which were 7 months old and others who were a year and two years old, with the firefighters who someday could assist them with providing aid to their partners.

Janine Shea, a client of Topaz Assistance Dogs introduces Ziva to Justin Leal, a firefighter with Greater Naples, Station 75 at the station in Golden Gate on Saturday, May 29, 2021. A group of volunteers and clients with dogs from Topaz stopped into the fire house for training on how to deal with firefighters in gear and loud noises associated with firefighters. They also wanted to say thank you for helping save their property from the wildfires last week.

While firefighters and EMTs are first responders, service dogs are on the front lines every day for those with disabilities including mobility issues, autism, seizures, and diabetes.

“There’s no question they’re their first,” EMS Battalion Chief Dwayne Watson said. “Any medical emergency call is a high-stress situation. If it’s someone depending on a service dog, anything that can be done to familiarize them with us can help make the situation easier, especially while we’re trying to treat that medical condition, is a good thing.”

Assistance dogs in training with Topaz Assistance Dogs hang out at Greater Naples, Station 75 at the station in Golden Gate on Saturday, May 29, 2021. A group of volunteers and clients with dogs from Topaz Assistance Dogs stopped into the fire house for training on how to deal with firefighters in gear and loud noises associated with firefighters. They also wanted to say thank you for helping save their property from the wildfires last week.

The Topaz volunteers and trainees also had an ulterior motive for their visit Saturday. 

A brush fire that started May 22, and at one point reached 1,500 acres in the Golden Gate Estates, forced the evacuation of the Topaz kennel, located on 12th Avenue Southeast very close to where the fire started near Desoto Boulevard South and 14th Avenue Southeast.

More:Dry conditions, high heat continue as crews work to contain Golden Gate Estates brush fire



Read More:Service dogs, volunteers thank Greater Naples firefighters at training