Therapy Dogs Sent In Force To Comfort Orlando Shooting Survivors

Nancy Bailey

Therapy dogs from around the country are serving to comfort Orlando shooting survivors.

The dogs were among the first responders to the devastating aftermath of the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub which left 49 dead and another 53 injured on Sunday, June 12.

The dogs, which are mostly golden retrievers, are trained to provide empathy in devastating times.

According to US Magazine, The Lutheran Church Charities helped coordinate the effort to bring the 11 dogs and their volunteer handlers to Orlando to offer the type of solace that only man's best friend can bring.

— The Dodo (@dodo) June 14, 2016

"You can sit there and share with (Gracie) things that you may not want to share with a human and she'll never tell your story. That gives (survivors) the courage to sit down and pour out their hearts."

Marsh-Johnson said that the dogs have been attending vigils in Orlando, meeting first responders to the massacre, and visiting the city's counseling center.

"(The church) has invited the community to come in and meet and greet with the dogs."
"Many are in a lot of grief of that and (Gracie) absorbs that very well."
"Yesterday we went to the hospital to visit the victims of the shooting, spent time with the emergency room staff who had cared for the victims and spent time comforting friends of victims and the wonderful people of Orlando.

"Had to smile a lot for the many TV interviews but if it gives comfort to those who need it I will keep smiling."

"Had to smile a lot for the many TV interviews but if it gives comfort to those who need it I will keep smiling."

On Tuesday, the Lutheran comfort dog teams visited a memorial site in honor of the victims outside of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

"He just stood there, got down and just pet the dogs. He asked a couple of questions about the dogs and then he said, 'You know, I lost my closest friend.' He had invited his closest friend into town that weekend."

— Michael Williams (@MWilliamsWPTV5) June 16, 2016

"We were able to bring some comfort to the fire dept first responders at the vigil tonight. Met with many people who are still in shock here at the vigil."

It's not the first effort for this organization. The group provided comfort dogs after the killing of the 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012; the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, and the mass shooting at an Oregon community college in 2015. The dogs also provide grief therapy for children, patients in hospice care, and inmates at Cook County Jail.

[Image by Catherin888 / Wikicommons]