Comfort Dogs Provide Hugs to Help Thousand Oaks Heal

They provided furry consolation after the shooting massacres in Newtown, Orlando and Las Vegas, and now comfort dogs have flown in from around the country to Thousand Oaks, Calif., to hug people suffering from a tragic double whammy.

Friends, families and residents are not only grieving the loss of a dozen lives during the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill the night of November 7, but they also have to cope with the Woolsey Wildfire that started burning near the area the very next day.

Several of the golden retrievers visiting Thousand Oaks are with Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dogs, an Illinois-based nonprofit started 10 years ago after yet another mass shooting. After a shooter killed five students at Northern Illinois University, handlers brought their therapy dogs to the campus to ease stressed-out students, and it worked very well.

The nonprofit has grown from four to 130 comfort dogs that live in 24 states. All of them and their handlers receive 12 to 14 months of training to be calm, starting when the dogs are eight months old. All the dogs are golden retrievers. Not only is this breed lovable by nature, LCC President Tim Hetzner told the Huffington Post after the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, but “because of their fur, they leave a little of themselves with everyone they meet,” he said.

The K-9 Comfort Dogs were originally invited to Thousand Oaks to console people affected by the Borderline massacre. Ministry director Richard Martin, who lives in Northbrook, Illinois, got a phone call from California Lutheran University—one of the victims, Justin Meek, was a recent graduate—soon after the shootings. “Within four hours we had teams on planes and in cars making their way here,” Martin told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

The dogs arrived from Chicago, Colorado, Las Vegas and Napa Valley in time to attend a candlelight vigil at Cal Lutheran that night for the shooting victims.

When the Woolsey Fire began in nearby Westlake Village, the comfort dogs’ invitation was extended. “We were on campus the last two days in the midst of that pain and suffering, and we were then directed to the shelters to give those evacuated comfort,” Miller told the Tribune.

Jacob, a four-year-old golden retriever deployed to Thousand Oaks, has previously worn his “Please pet me” vest after the mass shootings in Orlando, Las Vegas and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“You can’t pet a dog without smiling, no matter how much pain or sadness you’re feeling,” Jacob’s owner, Sharon Flaherty, told the Tribune. “If we can bring that love to people, that’s mission accomplished.”

The travel costs for Jacob and the other K-9 Comfort Dogs are covered by donations. Here’s hoping that Congress will enact stronger gun laws in the not-too-distant future, so these dogs won’t have to travel to yet even more areas affected by mass shootings.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

86 comments

Mely Lu
Mely Lu7 days ago

thanks

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Georgina Elizab McAlliste

tyfs

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Shirley P
Shirley Plowman14 days ago

SEE THE MIRACLES GIVEN BY THESE SPECIAL DOGS WE ARE SO LUCKY TO HAVE

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S M
S M14 days ago

Wonderful?
Yes, Trump didn’t help much on his visit when couldn’t remember the name of town of whose smoking ashes he visiting. But we do now know AGAIN his mindset, his Freudian slip! - Paradise and pleasure[d] conjoined in his head, just that pleasure at forefront when he speaking to camera! :0

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joan silaco
joan silaco14 days ago

thanks

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Sophie A
Sophie A14 days ago

Thanks

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Peggy B
Peggy B14 days ago

TYFS

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara15 days ago

good

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara15 days ago

th

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Daniel N
Daniel N15 days ago

thank you

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