PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — In 2020, crews from the Porterville Fire Department lost two of their own, but firefighters say they have been working through their grief with the help of a very special furry friend.

The Feb. 2020 blaze that destroyed the Porterville library killed Patrick Jones, 25, and Ray Figueroa, 35 left the community “heartbroken and devastated.”

“There’s no […] words for the emotions that come from an incident like that,” says David LaPere, Porterville Fire Chief. “It’s indescribable.”

Since then, however, the crews from the department say they’ve been working through the pain and continuing to do the work that Jones and Figueroa gave their lives for.

“We’ve got each other, and the community’s got us,” LaPere says.

And they have Gardner.

Gardner is the Porterville Fire Department’s therapy dog, and he’s a good boy.

“He is named after the first fire chief for the city of Porterville,” LaPere explains. “He had a reputation for taking care of his firefighters.”

And now Gardner takes care of his firefighters. He was just eight weeks old when he joined the department from the “Sentinel Dog Program,” a program started by the California Service Dog Academy. The CSDA is a non-profit dedicated to raising, training & providing service dogs to people that need them.

“We actually started our program because of the incident here in Porterville,” says Matthew Corso, executive director of the CSDA.

Over the last year, Gardner has grown up in the firehouse, capturing the hearts of all the tough brave heroes.

“Bringing an animal to help bring that comfort,” explains Corso, “that will help lower those stresses that are not just here in the fire house, but that potentially carry home.”

Gardner won’t be running into any burning buildings and time soon, but his job at the Porterville Fire Department is an important one: looking after the ones who look after us.