After Sunday morning's horrific attack at gay nightclub Pulse Orlando, victims are finding comfort in therapy dogs. On Sunday, CBS News reported that about a dozen K-9 comfort dogs from the Lutheran Church Charities are wagging their tails over to first responders and families of the victims. The comfort dogs are veterans when it comes to brightening up the saddest of situations. The same group visited victims of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, the Oklahoma tornado in 2013, the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and the Umpqua Community College attack in 2015.
Rev. Gregory S. Walton, President of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church, was the first to suggest that the comfort dogs make the trip down to Orlando. During their visit, the comfort dogs, along with 20 volunteers, are working closely with Orlando's Trinity Lutheran Church, which spearheads a local outreach program for the LGBT community.
According to Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs page, the therapy dogs attended Orlando prayer vigils earlier in the week and tended to those who were still in shock. Orlando's Fox 4 local news reported that the dogs came from a variety of states around the nation, including Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. The pack of golden retrievers are made recognizable by their royal blue vests and colorful bandanas. Each dog has his or her own social media page with a mission statement.
On Monday, LLC Comfort Dogs president Tim Hetzner told ABC News that the dogs help people open up about their oftentimes traumatic experiences:
They help people relax and calm down. Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking. They're good listeners, they're non-judgmental, they're confidential.
During a time in which overwhelmingly sad news dominates the airwaves, these furry friends help shine some light and remind those who are hurting that there is goodness in the world. If any creature on Earth is capable of spreading such optimism through a simple cuddle, it's a dog. LLC Comfort Dogs does not charge the victims it helps, and relies solely on donations for travel expenses. If you are interested in supporting its cause, you can visit their website here.