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The USS Gerald R. Ford, a first-in-class aircraft carrier, deployed on May 2 with a very good girl in its crew – a therapy dog named Sage.
According to the U.S. Fleet Forces Command on Facebook, Sage, a three-year-old Labrador Retriever, will help Sailors on board cope with the operational stress associated with deployment.
Sage’s deployment is part of a pilot program called the Expanded Operational Stress Control Canine pilot program.
Furthermore, the very good girl was trained for the job and is now part of Gerald R. Ford’s warfighter toughness mental health and resiliency team.
Mutts with a Mission, a Virginia-based non-profit organization, trained Sage for the job and loaned her to the crew for the ship’s deployment.
The U.S. Fleet Forces Command explained, “Animals are proven to be another form of stress relief and provide a sense of companionship.”
Chaplain Genevieve Clark, Gerald R. Ford and Carrier Strike Group 12’s Chaplain, will serve as Sage’s primary handler. And in preparation for this new role, Clark underwent 120 hours of training with Mutts with a Mission.
During deployment, the good girl’s daily schedule will be made available to all Sailors so that they can spend time with Sage for general visitation and morale boosts.
“One of the positives of having Sage aboard the ship is her help in breaking down some barriers to utilizing mental, emotional, and spiritual resiliency resources,” Clark explains.
Captain Rick Burgess, Ford’s commanding officer, said the Sailors on board are excited to welcome Sage to the ship. He also thanked Mutts with a Mission saying, “Mutts with a Mission provides an invaluable service to Sailors, one that will aid in stress relief during the ship’s deployment.”
Furthermore, to help Sage adjust to life at sea, Mutts with a Mission provided all the necessary supplies for her.
According to the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, these include a waste collection mat, proper bedding in her handler’s stateroom, personal protective gear that includes paw, hearing, and eye protection, and a life vest.
The Navy Times reports that the Navy will evaluate the effectiveness of the program and determine if future carriers should deploy with therapy dogs of their own.
“That evaluation will consider the number of interactions between Sailors and Sage, whether she increases their morale and willingness to seek out help, and how well she adjusts to life at sea,” the Navy Times wrote.