As we continue to mourn the loss of those in Newtown, CT, offers of help continue to pour into the small town, which now includes a large group from Illinois. Nine comfort dogs have traveled more than 800 miles from the Lutheran Church Charities in Addison, Ill to Newtown to respond to the tragedy. The dogs, all Golden Retrievers, work to comfort people after disasters.
"A comfort dog is one who brings comfort to other people, when they're suffering or hurting, or brings happiness to people, helps people process their grief," said Lutheran Church Charities' Tim Hetzner. "They are specially trained. These are all trained service dogs. We don't use them with disabled, but then we use that training and then we train them additionally to work with all different age groups and people."
The Goldens made their way into a local recreation center where they met with some of the children who survived the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as other local children. "To some, it helps them process their grief," said Hetzner. "They'll start crying, and they'll hug the dog, and to some children, they'll come up sad, and they'll walk away happy." He also says that the dogs are "nonjudgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone."
Hetzner says that they have placed 60 dogs in six different states that are ready to travel to any disaster-ridden area. Comfort dogs have traveled to the Joplin, MO area following the tornado disaster as well as to the Super storm Sandy area in the northeast. Chewie, Ruthie, Abbi, Prince, Luther, Chloe, Hannah, Barney and Shami. They go wherever there is a need.
The dogs are screened when they are 5 and a half weeks old to see if they have the right temperament. They are chosen for their calm and friendly nature.