Addie and Maggie, two comfort dogs who helped survivors of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December, are now in Boston spreading their special kind of love to those affected by Monday’s bombing at the iconic Boston Marathon. On Monday, the dogs were still on duty in Newtown, Connecticut when the bombing occurred.
Joining them from LCC (Lutheran Church Charities) Chicago headquarters are K-9 Comfort Dogs Ruthie, Luther and Isaiah. They are staying at the First Lutheran Church in Boston, only several blocks from the marathon finish line. The dogs are comforting people on the street around the marathon location as well as visiting the injured at area hospitals.
“The dogs are here to bring comfort, release and mercy to people who are going through a confusing time in their lives,” said Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, to New York Daily News. “In many cases they talk to the dogs like they are counselors, big furry counselors.”
The dogs’ Facebook page describes their mission. “A dog is a friend who brings a calming influence, allowing people to open up their hearts and receive help for what is affecting them.” The K-9 Comfort Dogs was formed in response to a 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University where five students were killed. Starting out with just a few comfort dogs, the organization now has 67. They deploy to any area of the country where they are requested.
Scientists believe the simple action of petting a dog releases oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is the hormone that circulates through the bloodstream of nursing mothers and infants which helps them to bond. It reduces anxiety and depression. It’s no surprise petting dogs can measurably reduce anxiety after traumatic experiences. A 2009 study showed patients using pet therapy during recovery from total joint replacement surgeries used 50% less pain medication than those who did not involve the canines. That shouldn’t be too surprising.
Any dedicated dog parent knows the amazing effect unconditional love from a dog has to help them through a difficult day or situation. Isn’t it wonderful that Comfort Dogs can be trained to step up and provide the patient devotion needed to survivors of large-scale trauma like the Boston marathoners?
LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs is a charity that does not charge for the dog’s services. Donations to cover travel expenses for the furry ambassadors are gladly accepted.
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