The day after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Bamabas, Chewie, Chloe, Hannah, Ruthie, Luther, Prince, and Shami drove 800 miles from Chicago to help out those grieving in Newtown, Connecticut. Called canine comfort dogs, these golden retrievers aim to provide a bridge for grievers to open up to the dogs' Lutheran Church handlers while they pray or talk about what happened.
As Tim Hetzner, the organization's president, explained: "Dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone. It creates the atmosphere for people to share."
And at a time like this, non-judgemental love is about the best thing anyone can ask for. Reportedly, the golden retrievers have brought smiles to the faces of some students after an interfaith prayer service -- seeing the fluffy dogs made them happy again for a little while, which is precisely the point.
The dogs enter training when they're just 5 and a half weeks old, and are taught for a year before they're deemed ready to help the public after an intense tragedy. And when they've graduated from the program, they're calm, caring, and ready to show love to anyone they meet.
They're also a distraction. As Hetzner says, it's nice to have something else for the kids to talk about than the shooting. Not only that, but adults feel more open to talk to the trained (and worth mentioning, Lutheran) handler when there's a dog there, acting as a bridge.
After school today at Sandy Hook, the dogs will be there for an after-school special, bringing much needed warmth to a community that just experienced some of the most cold-blooded murders this nation has ever seen.
It's nice to know that there are still some people, and pets, out there who see a tragedy unfold and rush to provide comfort as best they can -- what a heartwarming reminder of humanity.
If you, too, wanna help, here are 10 ways in which to do so.
Has a pet ever helped you cope?
Photo via Pohan/Flickr