Providing much-needed comfort

Our most favourite furry comforter!

Those of you that read my republication of Deborah’s article yesterday, Six ways dogs help us heal, would undoubtedly have picked up that one of those six ways was Dogs give us physical comforting. They snuggle and lie in our laps.

If we ever needed proof of that quality of comforting then an article from the Care2 site offers such evidence in spades.

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Comfort Dogs Provide Furry Solace to People in Orlando

3180697.largeBy: Laura Goldman June 14, 2016
About Laura    Follow Laura at @lauragoldman

They were deployed to Newtown. They were deployed to Boston. And now comfort dogs have made their way from around the U.S. to Orlando, Fla., to comfort those affected by yet another terror attack — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history that occurred on June 12 at the Pulse, an LGBT nightclub.

The dogs are available for anyone who needs a hug or a furry neck to absorb their tears. They wear vests with the irresistible invitation, “I’m Friendly. Please pet me.”

“We are reaching out to anyone that has been affected by this directly or indirectly,” Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dogs, told WLS.

About a dozen dogs and 20 handlers from the nonprofit are currently in Orlando.

“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”

The dogs will be in Orlando for at least a week, providing comfort to survivors, first responders and Pulse employees. They’ve visited hospitals (many are trained to climb into hospital beds and calmly lie there) and counseling centers, and joined more than 10,000 people at a June 13 candlelight vigil for the victims.

LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, based in Northbrook, Ill., deploys trained therapy dogs from around the country to areas where tragedies and disasters have occurred, as well as to local churches, hospitals and nursing homes. The nonprofit was created in 2008 after five students were killed at Northern Illinois University. To help ease students’ stress, handlers brought their therapy dogs to the campus, and the effort proved to be very successful.

When it started out, the nonprofit had four comfort dogs. Eight years later, it has more than 100 dogs in 23 states. The dogs are all golden retrievers — Hetzner told the Huffington Post this is because they’re a lovable breed by nature. “Also, because of their fur, they leave a little of themselves with everyone they meet,” he said.

Starting when they’re 8 months old, the comfort dogs-to-be and their handlers go through 12 to 14 months of intensive training before being deployed to areas that need them. Their travel expenses are covered by donations.

“Our dogs have to be able to relate with all age groups and stay calm in all circumstances,” Hetzner told the Huffington Post.

One of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs who was flown to Orlando is 5-year-old Gracie of Davenport, Iowa. She’s a comfort-providing veteran, having previously consoled people after the Sandy Hook massacre and in the aftermath of devastating tornadoes in Illinois and Oklahoma.

Gracie is known as one of the sweetest of all the LCC comfort dogs, Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of her handlers, told BuzzFeed News. “She’s always got a big smile.”

Therapy dogs are also helping people in Orlando cope. Zoey and her owner, Marc Gelbke, have been in town since Monday, comforting visitors to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida. Zoey will also visit a church and hospital, and is available by request, free of charge, through the Loving Paws of Clermont to anyone in the Orlando area who needs a hug.

“We encourage those [in Orlando] who are grieving to sit down on the floor and pet dogs like Gracie,” Marsh-Johnson said.

“The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”

Care2 stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Orlando, and against all forms of violence and discrimination.

Tell the FDA to fully lift the ban on gay men donating blood, and tell Congress to ban assault weapons immediately. Follow related coverage on the Orlando shooting here.

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Over on YouTube there are many videos of these wonderful dogs in action. I selected a CBC News segment to share with you.

“Furry rugs with heartbeats.” Perfect!

11 thoughts on “Providing much-needed comfort

    1. Yes, it seems as though you have been calling this situation correctly for some time! I agree about the widespread need in Brussels and elsewhere for several hundred comfort dogs!

  1. To see these dogs being used to comfort people in their time of need is heartwarming. No wonder they are man’s best friend, they prove it time after time after time.
    Wonderful post Paul.

    1. Oh Barb, it is replies like this one from you that make this game of blogging so enjoyable. Which, as you might guess, is my long-winded way of saying thank you!

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