Comfort Dogs Bring Affection to a Grieving Orlando

A comfort dog visits with a patient in Orlando

As the city of Orlando grapples with the aftermath of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, 12 golden retrievers from seven states have arrived to help.

"Come see me and my friends if you need some love, a good listener and a hug," said Jacob the comfort dog's Facebook page as the team arrived in Orlando this week.

Comfort dog visits with people in Orlando, Florida
A comfort dog visits with attendees at a memorial for the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting Monday, June 13.
Lutheran Church Charities

The dogs, which are part of the K-9 Comfort unit at Northbrook, Ill.-based Lutheran Church Charities, brought a sweet and cheering presence to public memorials, medical centers, and everywhere else they went. For people mourning the mass murder of 49 people and the wounding of more than 50 others, the comfort dogs helped open up emotions for many still in shock over the attack.

“We’ve had a lot of people here that start petting the dog, and they break out crying,” Tim Hetzner, the head of the charity, told The New York Times.

Orlando Police Department Corporal Robert Schellhorn sits on the front steps with Barnabas, one of 12 K-9 comfort dogs on hand to help with the healing process during a vigil at Trinity Lutheran Church in Orlando, Fla., on June 15, 2016.
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Beyond their mission in Orlando, the specially trained dogs stay busy. They're often visiting the sick, injured, and elderly, but also appear at schools, dentist offices, and anyplace else where some soft fur and a quiet gaze might be welcome.

"Dogs are good listeners,"Hetzner told WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando. "They're confidential, they don't take notes, they're non-judgmental, and they're there to just love on people."


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