Furry Comfort: Service Dogs Console Grieving Newtown

Post-tragedy, pooches befriend a shaken Connecticut community.

(Photo: Lutheran Church Charities)
Jenna is a Editorial Intern at TakePart and a high school senior in New York City.

A dog is a man’s best friend, but in times of crisis this worn adage is especially applicable. After the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, a group of K-9 Comfort Dogs has been deployed to Connecticut to provide at least a modicum of furry support to a grieving community.

The program is part of the Lutheran Church Charities and began in 2008 after a school shooting at Northern Illinois University. The dogs were so popular in Illinois, the Church decided to add more dogs. Today there are over 60 dogs in six states. Prior to the Newtown shooting, some dogs were traveling up the East Coast to console those affected by Hurricane Sandy. The dogs also go to nursing homes, schools and hospitals. 

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The eight dogs—Prince, Chewie, Ruthie, Shami, Luther, Bamabas, Chloe and Hannah—have been comforting Newtown citizens at the local high school and Lutheran Church since their arrival on Saturday night.

The dogs have been very well received—and that's an understatement.

"The dogs reflect a calm. They go into an area where people are upset and the dogs don't get upset," explained Billie Smith, Executive Director of Therapy Dogs Inc., to TakePart.

Although Smith is not affiliated with Lutheran Church Charities, she guessed that all the dogs go through obedience and on-the-job training to help them learn how to behave around mourners.

Smith also explained why children are more comfortable talking to dogs than to an adult.

"The dogs are nonjudgmental," she said. "The dogs aren’t asking questions or making kids explain themselves. Most children automatically relate to a dog." 

Hopefully the citizens of Newtown get at least some measure of consolation from these dogs—and a whole lot of slobbery kisses too.

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