KNX Heroes: Bringing joy and comfort to first responders

Working as a first responder is a rewarding yet taxing job - physically and mentally. Sometimes our heroes in uniform need extra support, and our KNX Heroes of the Week, a team of caring canines and handlers, are providing precisely that.

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Gilbert Escontrias, a retired LAPD detective with 36 years on the job, knows firsthand how stressful things can be. In retirement, he took his experiences as a police officer and dog trainer to start Blue Line Dogs, a nonprofit that pairs therapy dogs and their handlers with first responders.

Escontrias told Heroes producer Heather Jordan, "Upon my retirement, I approached one of the Deputy chiefs about initiating a program with therapy dogs. I was able to recruit people that are already working with therapy dogs within the community and then provide training."

Escontrias said his training is based on a military background, with safety as a primary focus, and most importantly, the program is "by and for first responders."

Blue Line Dogs is a team of a dozen canines and handlers, like Steven Zonis and his therapy dog Rudy, a purebred standard Poodle.

Steven Zonis and his therapy dog Rudy
Steven Zonis and his therapy dog Rudy Photo credit Steven Zonis

Zonis believes strongly in the work he does with Blue Line Dogs, saying therapy dogs "Detect the person's emotional state. They read their body language" and are able to "provide comfort, a sense of protection. They put individuals at ease."

Mental stress is often an unspoken part of the job for first responders, dealing with constant tragedy, physical stress, and long hours. A dog can provide a calming effect, even lowering blood pressure and anxiety levels.

Bringing a little light and love to those in uniform, Gilbert Escontrias, Steven Zonis, and every volunteer and pup at Blue Line Dogs are our KNX Helpful Honda Heroes of the week!

Blue Line Dogs
Blue Line Dogs Photo credit Steven Zonis

Check out all our KNX Heroes here.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Steven Zonis