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.
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.
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."