Twelve dogs and their handlers have descended on the Orlando area in the wake of the horrific shooting that took place early Sunday morning. They are members of the Lutheran Charities Comfort Dogs, a group of dogs specially trained to comfort people who have gone through tragic and horrific circumstances.
The dogs go through 12-18 months of training before they can go out and work. They have attended to people in the wakes of the Sandy Hook shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, and other tragedies, and now they are in Florida to comfort those reeling from the shooting at Pulse nightclub.
“They help people relax and calm down,” said Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs. “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.”
Russell Walker, who worked at Pulse, said he had barely been able to breathe since the shooting. After spending some time with one of the comfort dogs, he was finally able to exhale and relax a little bit.
The dogs were invited to Orlando by a local church near the site of the attack. They will stay there for at least a week, lending their support to those in need.
While the dogs obviously can’t change what happened, they are able to provide some relief. As one girl said while petting one of the dogs, “Puppies make everything better.”