Hawaii Life Flight, AMR, Add Four-Legged Sweetheart to EMS Team


Therapy dog will help Paramedics, EMTs and Flight Crews with work stress.
(HONOLULU, Hawaii) – The teams of Hawaii Life Flight and American Medical Response (AMR) are now likely to be greeted with a wagging tail when they arrive for work. Hawaii Life Flight, a Guardian Flight brand, and AMR, the ambulance service provider for O‘ahu, recently added a Goldendoodle to the team. Hōkūho‘okelewa‘a, or Hōkū for short, was born in September and will spend the next 12 months training to become a certified therapy dog.

Hōkū is named after the Sirius star, or dog star - Hōkūho‘okelewa‘a - the brightest star in the Hawaiian sky. Much like the star, Hōkū the therapy dog will serve as a guiding light for the first responders and citizens of Hawai‘i. Her role is to help Hawaii Life Flight and AMR teams including, EMTs, paramedics, nurses, pilots, communications staff, and partners, express and release stress associated with their work. Kat Miya, Business Development Manager for Hawaii Life Flight, said Hōkū is just one of the latest additions to its therapy dog program.

"Global Medical Response, our parent company, now has more than 30 therapy dogs at work in EMS systems across the U.S.,” Miya said. “The GMR Therapy Dog Program began in Amarillo, Texas, in 2016 and now includes working canines from Florida to the Hawaiian Islands. Once she completes her training and certification, Hōkū will be available to first responders and community members to help bring needed comfort during times of stress. Hōkū and her fellow canines are also available for deployments ranging from mass-casualty incidents and natural disasters, to local events and emergencies."

To become certified, Hōkū will work with a professional trainer and her primary handler from Hawaii Life Flight Caitlin Montague and secondary handler Natasha Reece from AMR. Her certification will require her to master a lot of skills including, basic commands and the ability to remain focused when presented with distractions such as other animals and food. All GMR dogs are introduced to their operations as puppies because dogs are more receptive to training when they are young. By starting her work early, Hōkū will also have the opportunity to bond with the first responder state of mind.

In 2017, GMR sent therapy dogs to help first responders in Las Vegas after the Route 91 Music Festival mass shooting. In August 2019, GMR sent therapy dogs to help El Paso first responders after a mass shooting.