Have you ever hugged your pet, buried your face in its fur, and found comfort and acceptance there? If so, then you can appreciate the mission of these special dogs - trained to be hugged and petted, to comfort and console humans who are struggling to cope with their emotional reactions in the aftermath of a disaster.
When a tragedy strikes, it can be difficult for people to find comfort, especially if those around you are also affected. In the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombing, and the West, Texas fertilizer plan explosion, and even the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, one extraordinary group sent a team that is specially trained to respond in disaster situations. They are the K-9 Comfort Dogs of Lutheran Church Charities.
These animals and their handlers are part of a unique ministry that trains Golden Retrievers to bring comfort and healing to people in need of emotional support. The dogs have a special instinct to know when someone is hurting, when they need help.
Generally, the K-9 Comfort Dogs work in their local parishes, helping humans who have experienced a traumatic event, such as a critical illness, or death of a loved one, or separation due to divorce. They are great at working with special needs children, residents of nursing homes, folks suffering from depression. But when disaster strikes, Lutheran Church Charities is ready to send in a team of dogs and handlers to bring mercy and compassion to those affected who may have difficulty coping.
So a team was dispatched to Newtown, Connecticut in December to offer comfort to children and adults after the shootings there.
When the bombs went off in Boston last month, a team was sent to that city to bring comfort and healing to marathon volunteers, runners, and students.
And in the aftermath of the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, a team flew to Waco. They visited with local school children, nursing home residents, first responders and other community members.
Interacting with these beautiful and highly trained dogs gives people a chance to step back from the sadness and fear they feel and to move forward in the healing process.
Many of us know all too well how much it helps to hug a furry friend for comfort, when we’re speaking of pets.