Saturday, June 18, 2016

Comfort Dogs Arrive With ‘Unconditional Love’ in Orlando

In a Shaken Orlando, Comfort Dogs Arrive With ‘Unconditional Love’ 
New York Times 
JUNE 16, 2016

Melissa Soto with Susie, a comfort dog, on Tuesday near a memorial
site for the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla.
Credit John Taggart/European Pressphoto Agency
On the Monday following the Orlando massacre, 12 golden retrievers arrived in the Florida city.

They had come to offer comfort to some of the victims of the attack, the families of those killed and the emergency medical workers, as well as anyone else in the city in need of some canine affection after the deadliest shooting in American history.

The animals are part of the K-9 Comfort Dogs team, a program run by the Lutheran Church Charities, based in Northbrook, Ill. Founded in 2008, the team has comforted victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.

Tim Hetzner, the president of the charity, said that the dogs in Orlando were helping to provide a feeling of safety, allowing those in distress to relax their guard and express their vulnerability during a difficult time.

“We’ve had a lot of people here that start petting the dog, and they break out crying,” he said.

The dogs and their 20 handlers have visited hospitals and churches, and attended vigils and memorial services.

On Wednesday, they visited some of the hospitalized victims and met with the staff of Pulse, the gay nightclub where the shooting occurred.
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