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Meet Rampart — GMR Therapy Dog in Training

Rampart is one of the newest members of the Global Medical Response (GMR) Therapy Dog Team.

Wendy Newell  |  Feb 25th 2020


Rampart is only a puppy, but he already knows he has a very important job in his future. He is one of the newest members of the Global Medical Response (GMR) Therapy Dog Team. The dogs and their handlers are trained to help emergency personnel who experience trauma while in the field or on 911 calls.

A group that started with just two pups has since grown to more than 20 and gone from a program at American Medical Response (AMR) to its parent company GMR, allowing it to reach out to more paramedics and EMTs.

Photo: Courtesy Michael Romo

An important job

Rampart’s handler, Michael Romo, operations manager for the San Bernardino AMR, has had family dogs but had never even gone to a dog-training class before. It wasn’t until he was deployed to Florida to help after Hurricane Michael in 2018 that he saw the importance of having a therapy dog available to the crews. After a week helping in an area completely devastated, the 200-plus paramedics and EMTs were showing signs of understandable fatigue. Morale, which was never high due to the work being done, was dipping even lower. “The dogs showed up at camp one day, and people lit up,” Michael remembers. When he got back to his office in Victorville, California, he looked into what it would take for his county to have access to its own therapy dog.

All employees in the Victorville office were polled to verify that they were OK with a dog in the facility and would be comfortable looking after him if Michael wasn’t available. Everyone was excited. Many had been following the GMR Therapy Dog Team on its Facebook page and knew about the program. Michael admits, “To be able to say that we were going to have that here in our operation was pretty exciting.”

Once the office and Michael’s home passed inspection, they needed to identify a breeder and trainer. GMR requires that the dogs in their program be hypoallergenic and be low shedding so that they can be in the office, on location, in public and loved up by personnel without leaving behind a trail of discarded fur. A Goldendoodle breeder had a dog who herself was a therapy dog. It seemed like the perfect fit. GMR purchased three dogs from her litter. These three boys would be trained to be working pups in California — one in San Diego County, one in Ventura County and a fluffy, light-brown love bug named Rampart would find his way to Michael. Training started almost right away. Rampart passed his puppy obedience class. His next test is coming soon and will prove his knowledge of the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy training. Two more months of training after that, and have access to its own therapy dog.

All employees in the Victorville office were polled to verify that they were OK with a dog in the facility and would be comfortable looking after him if Michael wasn’t available. Everyone was excited. Many had been following the GMR Therapy Dog Team on its Facebook page and knew about the program. Michael admits, “To be able to say that we were going to have that here in our operation was pretty exciting.”

Once the office and Michael’s home passed inspection, they needed to identify a breeder and trainer. GMR requires that the dogs in their program be hypoallergenic and be low shedding so that they can be in the office, on location, in public and loved up by personnel without leaving behind a trail of discarded fur. A Goldendoodle breeder had a dog who herself was a therapy dog. It seemed like the perfect fit. GMR purchased three dogs from her litter. These three boys would be trained to be working pups in California — one in San Diego County, Rampart will be tested for his Canine Good Citizen award. At that point, Rampart will start his training to get his final certification — that of a therapy dog.

Rampart isn’t the only one in class. Michael, his co-worker and secondary handler, and wife all attend classes with Rampart. “They don’t train the dog, they train the human,” Michael explains. Michael and Rampart’s secondary handler also must go through Critical Incidence Stress Debriefing (CISD). He explains it as peer-counseling class for paramedics and EMTs, and it is mandatory for all GMR therapy dog handlers. The CISD offers a number of layers of help to the emergency personnel. One of those layers is a therapy dog. There are also professional counselors available over the phone or in person, but some people may want to talk to someone who can relate to them peer to peer, and that is what the handlers need to learn to do.

Making people happy

GMR now has dogs and trained handlers in locations all over the United States. The dog and handler are flown to wherever they are needed. During the recent El Paso shooting, for example, a duo was sent to help. Soon that will be Rampart and Michael. Until then, every day Rampart puts on his vest and collar, which is a signal to him that it is time to work, gets his seatbelt put on and heads to the office with his dad.

Field responders come through the office, or Michael and Rampart will take a trip to a station.

“As I am pulling in, you hear the crews yelling ‘Rampart!’ They get so excited to see him.” Even without all his certifications and awards, Rampart is already performing an important part of his worker dog duties — making people happy. “When you walk in, people light up when they see a dog coming into the workplace.”

There is no doubt that Rampart realizes he is special and has an important job. He can be seen prancing through the hall like the rock star he is.

Michael is looking forward to getting to work with his new partner. He likes the fact that they are helping people. In what can be a stressful and sometimes thankless job, he thinks it makes a big difference for them to make people smile and make their day a little better.

“We are helping the people that are helping others in the community and that is a big positive for me.”

Photo: Courtesy Michael Romo

A Q&A With Michael Romo

Q: What is Rampart’s diet?
A: Nature’s Logic and occasionally some vegetables (carrots, broccoli, green beans).

Q: What type of gear does Rampart use?
A: Dog Gear travel bag, Amazon Basic Crate, Mighty Paw Safety Belt and
Bolux Vest.

Q: Do you groom Rampart yourself or do you take him to someone to be groomed?
A: Rampart is groomed about every four weeks at PetSmart, by a groomer who has Goldendoodles herself.

Q: Does Rampart have any nicknames?
A: Not really, although we sometimes call him Buddy.

Q: If Rampart had a super power, what would it be and why?
A: Making people laugh and smile, his natural puppy clumsiness and his love of being petted. He will come to people and plop his head on their lap, and once you start petting he will awkwardly flop onto his back to have his belly rubbed.

Q: What is the weirdest or funniest thing Rampart does?
A: Pretty much every good nap during the day he will dream and “talk” in his sleep. He barks and makes noises as his paws flinch, and his mouth looks like he is nibbling or just licking the air. We say he is chasing balls in his sleep.

Learn more about the GMR Therapy Dog Team on Facebook.