In times of great suffering, we must “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” It was Fred Rogers who first shared these words with us, and now in the wake of one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, these words ring truer than ever.
But it is not just the people who are helping in Orlando, FL. Our canine friends have also stepped in to lend a hand.
Lutheran Church Charities, a Chicago-based organization has dispatched 12 comfort dogs and 20 volunteers to provide comfort and solace to victims, first-responders, and others who have been affected by the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The tragic incident resulted in the death of 50 people and 53 more who were injured.
“They help people relax and calm down,” Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, told ABC News on Monday. “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.”
LCC Comfort Dogs have been among the first to respond after many other national tragedies. But as People Magazine states, the organization never arrives on the scene with the intent to make a profit of any kind. In fact, they are always invited. In the case of Orlando, Rev. Gregory S. Walton, President of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, reached out to LCC Comfort Dogs and invited them to come. The dogs will be working through the Trinity Lutheran Church in Orlando, a church that has an LGBT community outreach ministry.
The handlers and the dogs themselves are from all over the country, but each one is a golden retriever who has been extensively trained as a comfort dog. According to the Daily Mail, the dogs will be dispatched to hospitals, police stations, vigils, homes, and of course their base at the Trinity Lutheran Church. The dogs are there to provide emotional support and to relieve stress for the hundreds of people affected by the shooting.
In addition to responding to tragedies, these golden retrievers also take on other more individualized jobs. They provide comfort to special needs individuals, veterans, the elderly, and are used during counseling situations. Though there are 12 golden retrievers currently working in Orlando, the LCC website features more than 60 dogs who work with the organization – and there are many more currently in training. The organization is entirely donation based, and those who wish to help can donate here.