TYLER, Texas — UT Health East Texas has a new and unconventional emotional support four-legged employee.
UT Health Air One flight nurse and Apollo's owner, Kristi Wiggins said Apollo is a labradoodle support dog that brings a smile to many at UT Health especially to the EMS crews who experience trauma on the job.
"This is one way to help take care of ourselves in a healthy way and this kind of helps when you come off shift, if he's here, you can come in and pet him spend time with him," Wiggins said. "He has a tennis ball and they throw the tennis ball with them, and just kind of relax a little bit before they go home to their families."
Wiggins brings Apollo when she is at the office and allows him roam in the office to greet crews as they go in and off shifts. Many employees at at UT Health have treats for him but what he likes the most is to sit with them when they're stressed.
"The first time I took him into dispatch, a dispatcher was given CPR instructions over the phone (to) a family member and (Apollo) walked straight to that person laid his head on her lap and she just kind of started petting him without even realizing what was going on," Wiggins explained. "So he kind of tends to go to people that seem stressed or hears stress in their voice first, and then greets the rest of the room. So, he's really intuitive on what's going on in the room."
Wiggins first brought Apollo to UT Health Headquarters in October and plans to not stop.
"A lot of times as EMS crews, we bottle it up, and don't talk about what happened," Wiggins said. "(But) once you bring Apollo in or bring any other pet in, they've kind of start relaxing a little bit and interact with Apollo and that's when they really start opening up and kind of talking about what's going on and it helps us a lot."