A dangerously destructive tornado touched down last Monday in Moore, Oklahoma, leaving a two-mile swath of devastation and grief in its wake. Amid the sadness, however, is hope. And hope has a wagging tail and big brown eyes.
Four golden retrievers, known as “comfort dogs,” piled into a van on Tuesday and headed off from Addison, Illinois to Moore on a mission of love. The dogs are part of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs program. They and six additional dogs from other cities will remain in Moore for about a week, according to Fox 32 News.
The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs have been busy over the past several months. They traveled to Newtown, Connecticut last December to provide support to the survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
In April, the dogs mobilized to Boston to comfort victims and others affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. Before that, they provided assistance during Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey.
Why are these dogs such miracle workers? It’s simple — it’s hard to be sad or lonely when petting a friendly dog. LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry President Tim Hetzner told CBS the dogs are “confidential, they don’t keep notes and they’re good listeners.”
Comfort dogs offer entertainment or a welcome distraction from a traumatic event, according to an LCC brochure about its program. Two strangers suddenly have something in common to talk about when both are petting a dog. Often, people will feel more comfortable opening up to a dog than to other humans about their feelings.
The LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry program began in 2008, when the Lutheran Church Charities responded to the shooting of five people at the Northern Illinois University by taking several dogs to the site to work with the students.
Comfort dogs do much more than crisis response work. On a more typical day, they visit hospitals, funerals, support groups, shut-ins, nursing homes, sporting events and Sunday schools.
There are 18 dogs in the LCC K-9 group based in Addison, plus 20 more affiliated with church groups in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. An additional five more golden retrievers are currently “Comfort Dogs in Training,” according to the LCC’s web site. And then there are the adorable “puppies in training.”
The LCC doesn’t charge for its comfort dog visits, even when the group needs to travel far from its home base near Chicago. The ministry relies on donations alone to defray its expenses. Contributions are therefore much appreciated.
A crisis can descend without warning. Fortunately, when tragedy strikes, warm wet noses and furry affection can do a world of good.
Photo: Trine Juel/flickr