Dogs Sent To Newtown; Golden Retrievers Comfort Community

By IScienceTimes Staff on December 18, 2012 12:01 PM EST

Barnabas the therapy dog
Barnabas, one of the therapy dogs sent to Newtown, comforts a little girl near Sandy Hook Elementary. (Photo: Facebook)

This story gives new meaning to the phrase "puppy power."

A group of therapy dogs sent to Newtown, Conn. to comfort victims of the Sandy Hook elementary shooting arrived over the weekend. The dogs sent to Newtown are part of the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry from Chicago-based Lutheran Church Charities. The K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry provided 8 dogs sent to Newtown along with trained handlers who are there to provide emotional support while some victims pray or talk through their experience. Others prefer to pet the dogs in silence.

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"Dogs are nonjudgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone," said Tim Hetzner, the organization's president. "It creates the atmosphere for people to share."

K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry has provided a list of the 8 dogs sent to Newtown, along with links to some of their Facebook pages. Each dog carries business cards with its social media contact info so that victims who develop a bond with the animal can stay in touch.  The dogs sent to Newtown arrived on Saturday night and were present at President Obama's speech on Sunday night. The dogs sent to Newtown made their first official stop on Sunday at Christ the King Lutheran Church, which will host two funerals this week for two children who died in the shooting.

"The dogs have become the bridge," Lynn Buhrke, a dog handler for a female golden retriever named Chewie, told the Chicago Tribune. "People just sit down and talk to you."

The dogs sent to Newtown will be touring local schools today to help children cope with the tragedy. This isn't their first tragedy. The group formed in 2008 after a gunman killed five students at Northern Illinois University and was so successful that students petitioned to bring the dogs back several weeks later. Since then, K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry has grown to include 60 dogs active in six different states. They recently visited Joplin, Mo. to  comfort victims of the 2011 tornado and made stops in New Jersey to meet with victims of Hurricane Sandy.

"There are a lot of people that are hurting," Hetzner told the Tribune. It's "good for the children to have something that is not the shooting."

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