When you think of comfort, nothing quite makes the cut like the big warm body of a loving dog. Therapy dogs have long been used in hospitals, nursing homes and for schoolchildren suffering from stress and anxiety, and now, their caring smiles are helping survivors of the Orlando shooting.
A group of 12 comfort dogs have been dispatched to Orlando to support the friends, families and survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
The dogs, organised by the Lutheran Church Charities (LCC), are part of the K-9 Comfort Dogs team based in Northbrook, Illinois. The team was founded in 2008 with only four dogs and has since expanded to include more than 120, loving golden retrievers across 23 states.
The Comfort Dogs have helped countless people process tragedies like the Sandy Hook Shooting, the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Newtown shooting and more.
Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, spoke to local news about the impact these dogs were having on those who were having a hard time coping with the tragedy.
“Some people are very somber and quiet,” Hetzner told KTLA5. “But they can approach the dogs, pet them and then they start talking. Dogs are great listeners. They are nonjudgmental, confidential and they won’t interrupt. The best furry counselors out there.”
The dogs, who complete a rigorous training program before being dispatched, are working with local hospitals and first responders to distribute love and support to those who need it the most.
Marc Gelbke, a volunteer who has travelled to Orlando with his dog Zoey, explained the benefits of having a dog close by in crisis situations.
“Words cannot always help, but dogs are wordless,” says Gelbke. “They just provide affection, a sense of calmness. And you know how you feel when you pet a dog? That is so needed in these times.”
— LCC K9 Comfort Dogs (@K9ComfortDogs) June 16, 2016
For more information or to donate to the K-9 Comfort Dogs visit the website here.