Fur Responders are First Responders Best Friends

Krystle Doniloski, and Holly Montellanico met each other at the City of Hollywood Fire Rescue Department. Doniloski has been a firefighter/paramedic for almost six years and Montellanico has been in the fire prevention office for thirteen and a half years.

“I come from a family with police and fire/EMS background and it has always been in me. You don’t choose this career; this career chooses you. Not everyone can do it. It takes a certain breed to work the blue and red line along with our dispatchers,” said Doniloski

Both ladies are passionate about saving lives and helping people, but they also have a love for their dogs. While taking courses to be members of the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) formed by one of their peers, the dynamic duo met Charlie and his handler Shawn of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. In an instant, they knew they wanted to train their dogs to assist in the peer support process. Knowing that the dogs give tremendous comfort to those around them sparked “Fur Responders 4 First Responders.”

They then contacted Daniel De La Rosa with Service Dogs 4 Servicemen and began a 6-month training program. Being a member of the peer support team is strictly on a volunteer basis. Besides volunteering their time, Doniloski and Montellanico spent their own funds for training, classes, and supplies. The cost for each handler and their canine is $2500.

They recently designed PTSD awareness shirt to help raise funds. One hundred percent of the funds will go towards training, classes, and assistance for members in need. First responders which include fire fighters, police officers, nurses, and dispatchers are all considered members.

“Being a peer support member entails responding to a critical incident, such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, and providing counseling assistance to the first responders affected. It also can be an isolated event in a department such as a line of duty death, or a call that extremely affects a crew or dispatcher. As team members we are ready to respond 24/7 if needed,” explained Montellanico.

Right now, Lilly (5) and Kali (4), mother/daughter Belgian Malinoises, are the only canines in Fur Responders 4 First Responders.

“We are currently applying to become a 501(C) (3), non-profit organization. Raising funds will help us to continue training, take courses, and allow other members to join our team. In the future our goal is to place trained service dogs with members diagnosed with PTSD or other conditions that would benefit from having a service canine. Our normal day of work is someone’s worst day. We are in a time where suicide, post-traumatic stress, and catastrophic addictions have become the epidemic that is taking the lives of our fellow first responders. Suicide currently outranks line of duty deaths in both the police and fire service. Fur Responders 4 First Responders is committed to assisting those in need and raising awareness of mental health issues for first responders,” added Montellanico.

To donate and find out more, please visit www.FurResponders4FirstResponders.com