A young woman who was contemplating taking her life found the incentive she needed to retreat from the edge of a motorway bridge when she met a therapy dog. The dog has now been hailed as “amazing” for his role in helping save her life.
The distressed woman was spotted standing on a footbridge over the M5 motorway near Exeter in the south of England on June 15. Following up on a welfare concern, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics closed the road and arrived on the scene around 11 a.m. to investigate.
Police negotiators approached and spoke to the woman, but the situation grew “increasingly worrying,” according to a Facebook post by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. A member of the crew had the idea to introduce Digby, their “defusing” dog.
Digby, an Australian labradoodle, has worked with the fire service since 2018, BBC reported. His role is to calm, comfort, and empower people to discuss their trauma in talking therapy.
“When Digby arrived, the young woman immediately swung her head round to look, and smiled,” the fire service explained. “This got a conversation started about Digby and his role.”
Crews asked the woman if she would like to come and meet Digby and she accepted their invitation.
A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police told Devon Live that the woman was taken into safe custody shortly after 3 p.m. and the road was reopened. She was taken into the care of mental health experts.
Thousands of netizens supported the rescue services’ decision to enlist Digby and agreed that the smart dog earned his accolade.
“Thinking outside the box, Digby could be an invaluable tool,” one netizen considered. “It’s about getting the attention in a meaningful way of the person in distress.”
“Maybe Digby could have a new title in his service as a diffusion and distraction fire crew member and attend more incidences like this,” wrote another. “People who are having their own mental health crisis will often still think about an animal’s welfare and story … and put them before themselves.”
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service wished the woman well in her ongoing recovery.
Anyone in distress can call Samaritans for support from the U.K. on 116-123 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from the U.S. on 1-800-273-8255.