By Dana Simmons, American Red Cross
When the Fairview Fire in Riverside County broke out, Ken, Linda and Buddy Rieger were among many American Red Cross volunteers that jumped into action to help those in need. While Ken and Linda worked as shelter volunteers, Buddy served a very important role: bringing "pawsitivity” to those displaced.
In March 2019, Ken and Linda got Buddy, a Golden Doodle, who they describe as a laid-back, lowkey and an easy-going dog who loves being around people. “We got him with the intention of making him a therapy dog who could help us in the Red Cross and other settings,” said Linda. “I currently take him to hospitals, schools and mostly libraries where children read to him.”
In order to become a therapy dog, Buddy went through American Kennel Association training where he was certified as a K9 Good Citizen and he also took a test through the Love on a Leash program in Temecula. Love on a Leash has a partnership with the local Red Cross, which allows trained dogs to be requested at local events, disaster responses and more to help bring people comfort and relief.
This partnership has given Buddy the opportunity to participate in a few activities for the Red Cross; however, his first shelter visit came when the Fairview Fire forced people in Riverside County to evacuate their homes.
When Linda and Ken brought Buddy into the foyer of the shelter in Hemet, it lifted everyone’s spirits. “It’s very comforting to them to be able to pet a dog,” said Linda. “We’re not just there for the children, we’re there for the workers, the volunteers and you can see their faces just light up when Buddy comes in.”
In the midst of a disaster, the presence of a furry friend is just what many people need. “This kind of work has a very relaxing effect on people,” said Linda. “It’s very interesting to watch it happen.”
When Red Cross volunteers put their hands together to help those in need, Buddy extends his paws to bring hope and comfort too.
About Ken and Linda Rieger:
Ken and Linda Rieger joined the Red Cross about 14 years ago and continue to serve in several roles including sheltering, feeding, Disaster Action Team and helping with free smoke alarm installations through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Ken also helps with scheduling, damage assessment and training volunteers and Linda, a retired psychologist and school counselor, volunteers in disaster mental health. In addition to local volunteer work, during Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Matthew, Linda and Ken drove Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles across the country to serve those in need.