Wilmington Fire Department welcomes new four-legged team member

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Wilmington Fire Department has a new member of the team, one with four legs.

WFD Station 8 on Eastwood Road now has a fire dog. Rhys is a six-year-old black who was trained by paws4people.

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“He was named after a Sergeant Rhys Klasno who was killed in combat in Iraq in 2007,” said firefighter Zach Whisenhunt.

Whisenhunt’s wife Kyria is executive director of paws4people. The organization provided Rhys to the department at no cost.

The new canine companion is part of a one year pilot program with the department’s mental health and wellness team, and his job is to help firefighters handle the stresses that come with the job.

“He’ll stay at the station with us 24 hours a day and it allows us to kind of help decompress when we get back to the station and handle some of that post-call stress, but without having to really address it,” said master firefighter Josh Baltz.

Rhys also goes on some service calls with the firefighters, helping children to relax in difficult situations.

When another fire station is going through a difficult time and Rhys is unavailable, paws4people has a program where they bring a group of puppies to cheer up the firefighters.

You can read more about paws4people here.

Learn more about Rhys here.