Pictured: A team of Golden Retrievers has been deployed to the Newton Connecticut area to comfort residents of the town still dealing with the school shooting tragedy.
Golden retrievers are coming to the rescue at tragedy-struck homes in Connecticut's Newtown, reported The Chicago Tribune, three days after an elementary school shooting there killed 20 children and six adults.
The canine team made the 800-mile trip from Chicago to Newtown in order to provide comfort to those who lost loved ones. Each wears a name-tag card listing his or her Facebook page, Twitter account and email in case people want to find the animal again, according to the Tribune. Nearly 25,000 dogs, and their volunteer owners and handlers, are registered with Therapy Dogs International, a non-profit based in Flanders, New Jersey that sets standards for canines that "bring joy and comfort to those in need."
Dog handler Lynn Buhrke told the Tribune "dogs have become the bridge" for healing in Newtown. The specially-trained team will join Sandy Hook students for a special after-school animal program today, organizers said. ”There are a lot of people that are hurting,“ project organizer Tim Hetzner of Lutheran Church Charities told the Tribune. It's ”good for the children to have something [to think about] that is not the shooting.“
Dogs build "the atmosphere for people to share" because they are "non-judgmental" and "loving," Hetzner said. “Dogs are actually furry teddy bears,” Hetzner says. “They’re counselors with fur. Kids relate to that — and adults.” Hetzner explains that petting a dog lowers your blood pressure, which relaxes you and makes you feel more open. This makes it easier for people to talk about what they’ve experienced.
One boy from Newtown, who witnessed the shootings, hadn’t talked about the experience at all until he spent time with one of the comfort dogs yesterday, Hetzner says. After petting a golden retriever for a while, he started telling the dog about what happened in his classroom.