Friday, January 18, 2013

Goldens Bring Love and Comfort

I've been able to work with service dogs many times over the last several years. There are some wonderful companies out there that match dogs so perfectly with disabled clients. Their lives are much more manageable, and they're provided with the companionship that only a dog can give. Companion and therapy dogs can also bring comfort and peace in an otherwise difficult situation. 
After a roommate in college brought her intelligent, beautiful Golden Retriever, Jessie, along to live with us, Goldens have always been my favorite dogs. Combining a therapy dog with the smart, sweet demeanor of a Golden has to be a good match. In the case of my roommate's dog, she was my morning alarm clock. She would push my bedroom door open at just the right time, her tail wagging wildly. Her good morning cry was always a bit muffled by the ball in her mouth.

When I heard an organization sent their Goldens to help out the children and adults so devastated by the elementary school tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, I knew they would really bring some peace to hurting people. According to the Chicago Tribune:
A team of golden retrievers made an 800-mile journey from the Chicago area to Newtown, Conn., on Saturday to comfort those affected by Friday's school massacre.
Lutheran Church Charities deployed about 10 of the canines for people who want to pet them while they talk or pray with the dog's handler, said Tim Hetzner, president of the Addison-based organization.
"Dogs are nonjudgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone," Hetzner said. "It creates the atmosphere for people to share."
When the K-9 Comfort Dogs are not responding to a tragedy, they visit people in hospitals, nursing homes and parks. Each dog has a card with its name, Facebook page, Twitter account and email so those who meet the canine can keep in touch.
"The dogs have become the bridge," said Lynn Buhrke, 66, who is a handler for a female golden retriever named Chewie. "People just sit down and talk to you."
The students were greeted by the dogs again when they started at their new school a couple weeks ago. The return to school was much easier with the dogs' presence for both students and teachers. It may not make everything normal again, but with their smiling faces, soft fur, and wagging tails, their visit at least comforted some very hurting hearts. 

comfort dogs 
Comfort Dog Luther & Comfort Dog-in-Training Isaiah. 
RNS photo courtesy Lutheran Church Charities.

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