In Newtown, Golden Retrievers Arrive to Comfort Survivors

Lutheran Church Charities sent their comfort dogs to Newtown to help those suffering in a town reeling from the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School

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Image: A golden retriever puppy
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Like the legendary St. Bernard who travels through the frozen Alps with a cask of warming brandy attached to its collar, a team of golden retrievers set out from Chicago this weekend with a mission: to help comfort people affected by the Friday shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Lutheran Church Charities, which runs the comfort-dog initiative, sent out a team of 10 golden retrievers with the hope that warm hearts and cold noses could offer some comfort to the residents of Newtown, still reeling from the tragedy that claimed the lives of 20 young students and eight adults, including the shooter. “Dogs are nonjudgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone,” said Tim Hetzner, president of the Addison, Ill., organization, speaking to the Chicago Tribune. “It creates the atmosphere for people to share.” The presence of the dog opens the door for residents who want to pet them while they talk or pray with the dog’s handler.

(MORE: ‘We Will Have to Change’: Obama Comforts Newtown, and Challenges the Nation)

The first stop for the dogs was Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown, where funerals are planned this week for two of the young victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “You could tell which ones … were really struggling with their grief because they were quiet,” Hetzner told the Tribune. “They would pet the dog, and they would just be quiet.”

Sadly, providing solace to victims and survivors of mass shootings is nothing new for the dogs or the organization. The Lutheran Church Charities comfort-dog initiative first started in 2008 at Northern Illinois University, after a mass shooting there in which five students were killed.

MORE: Puppies Keep Lost Boy Warm

MORE: Remembering the Victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

7 comments
veteriner
veteriner

This makes me so, so happy. They truly are man's best friend. Thanks veteriner

RichardLeeBoshoven
RichardLeeBoshoven

Wow, what an amazing ministry... Lutheran Church Charities... God bless your work.

KendraJames14
KendraJames14

Glad they were able to find some kind of relaxation or get away for these families..Its amazing how fast an animal can change your mood and give you an instant smile http://bit.ly/UsY7JZ   http://bit.ly/YMEJuL   Just look at those and tell me they don't brighten your day a little bit. I hope the Families got a great deal of comfort with the dogs they brought to town.

AnnaLauraMarquez
AnnaLauraMarquez

Dog spelled backwards is God is it a coincidence? I think not. They truly are man's best friend.

sknwlkr
sknwlkr

It has been said that Mrs Lanza bought guns to teach her son responsibility. What ever happened to getting the child a dog or cat to teach them responsibility? Also animal therapy has been shown to be effective for children (older people as well) with communication disorders. 

EdBuck
EdBuck like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Thank GOD, or is that Thank DOG.  I hope that canine therapy becomes standard practice.  There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to heal a soul, and allow us to forget the pain. A Golden Retriever healed my scars from childhood sexual abuse.  Now I have made returning the favor a primary goal in my life.  I thought I was saving a dog, turns out,  he saved me.

Ed Buck,Founding member of Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue.  

P.s.Lewis
P.s.Lewis like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

what a heartwarming gesture! dogs of all kinds, even other animals have tremendous abilities to help us in our time of need. Goldens are wonderfully sweet dogs. I pray the people of Newtown will slowly start to begin the healing process. Thank you, Illinois, for this special service.