Texas State mental health officer, therapy dog fly to Maui in support of fire victims
When tragedy strikes, the aftereffects can linger long after the initial crisis has passed.
On the Hawaiian island of Maui, the wildfire that devastated the town of Lahaina on Aug. 8 left 115 people dead with dozens still missing more than a month later. The stress and trauma have taken a toll on local residents, rescue workers and volunteers alike, so at the request of local officials in Hawaii, Kendra Marsteller, the mental health officer with the Texas State University Police Department, and Brady, the Texas State therapy dog, are in the midst of a two-week trip to Maui to provide aid and comfort.
“When I asked Kendra if she would be willing to take Brady and serve in Maui, she agreed to go without hesitation,” UPD Chief Matthew Carmichael said. “Bringing a dog to Hawaii is no simple task. It normally requires a multitude of tests and long-term quarantine upon arrival. Kendra was able to work with our veterinarian to get the specialized tests needed to enter Hawaii, and I believe we are the first out-of-state therapy dog team to enter Hawaii without having to quarantine.”
Marsteller is supporting victims of the fires by providing victim services at several locations on the island. She and Brady will supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster recovery centers and also spend time at the Sheraton Maui, which is housing multiple families. The victim centers on the island are serving many displaced families who lost everything, and the need for victim services is great.
UPD has a strong connection to Maui as the department partnered with the Maui County prosecuting attorney’s office last year for a mass violence conference.
“Over the weekend someone asked me, ‘Why is UPD going to Maui?’ My response was short and succinct: ‘Because they need us,’” Carmichael said. “I know that if we were to suffer such catastrophic loss here, many would rally to our aid. Texas State University, by its very nature, has a global impact on life based on its teaching, research and outreach. This is the right thing to do.”