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We wanted to share a story that was first reported by the New York Daily News on Monday, December 17. The comfort dogs are able to bring is no surprise to dog lovers. The New Barker joins the nation in sending our thoughts and prayers to those who lost loved ones as a result of this tragedy.

Comfort dogs help ease pain of mourning Newtown Community. By Jennifer H. Cunningham and Adam Edelman for the New York Daily News. Photography is by Allison Joyce for the New York Daily News.

A pack of sympathetic groups bearing supportive canines spent much of Monday with bereaved Connecticut residents affected by last week’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, providing children and adults alike with the cuddly comfort that only a four-legged friend can give.

The therapy dogs were brought in by at least three groups late Sunday to help kids and adults alike cope with last week’s horrific shooting in Newtown that left 20 first graders and six school officials dead.

Among the groups was the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, whose members spent the afternoon at a makeshift memorial near the town center, where both kids and adults in need of compassion stopped to pet and cuddle the dogs.

Mourning or otherwise devastated children and parents said that petting the dogs gave them relief from their sadness.

“I just love dogs, so whenever I’m around them, they make me feel better,” said 12-year-old Ryan Williams. “When they come over and you pet them you kind of forget about what’s happening for a little bit.”

Jenna Stuart, a school bus driver from Newtown, said the dogs were an enormous help to her four-year-old daughter, Kylie, who attends preschool at the Children’s Adventure Center in front of Sandy Hook Elementary and lost friends in the tragedy.

“I like the dogs because they made me happy,” said Kylie, after petting one on the head. “The dogs love me.”

Some residents, who weren’t directly affected by the bloodshed, found peace in simply bringing their own dogs to help others.

Sandy Hook resident Ann Mari Cioffi, a member of the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, brought her dog, Libby, 5, to comfort victims, at a memorial in the center of town.

“They’re just gentle, caring, kind and sweet. Cioffi said of the dogs. “They just seem to sense it. They just sense when somebody’s sad.”

Massachusetts- based K-9’s For Kids Pediatric Therapy Dogs was also among the groups sharing their tail-wagging buddies.

Crystal Wright, 52, of Becket, Mass., a dog handler with the group for Rhiku, a 5 year old Sheltie, said the canine had been easing frowns all day.

“Everyone likes to pet a dog,” she said. “It changes the mood. It kind of takes them away from what they’re going through for a moment. I think it’s helping. I think they needed it.”

Some canines even traveled across the country to help out.

Trainers from the Chicago-based Lutheran Church Charities, which has deployed its comfort dogs to other communities hit by tragedy in the past, brought in 10 to 15 Golden Retrievers and their handlers to Connecticut to help with the consolation efforts, Tim Hetzner, the president of the organization, said.

For information on becoming a therapy dog team with your dog, contact the following organizations: Therapy Dogs International: http://www.TDI-Dog.org; Delta Society: http://www.DeltaSociety.org; Therapy Dogs Inc.: http://www.TherapyDogs.com

7 thoughts on “

  1. Thanks for the comments Cheryl, Gwendolyn and Eden.
    Gwendolyn, you might want to consider contacting your local dog training club. Let me know where you live (county only), and we can give you some information. The dog training clubs will help you get started with training and direction to becoming a therapy dog team.

  2. I love it. I was just recently thinking of how to become a service dog trainer because of my own experience with a very recent accident and how my dogs got me through it. I have a degree in Psychology and I know how much my dogs had done for me and would like to do the same for others.

    1. Dogs specifically, tend to be healers for many human beings in many ways. They always open the hearts of those who are willing and who truly are in need, as well as those of us who are already animal lovers. At times, they take on an ailment/illness of their special persons’, in an attempt to help heal their physical malady, yet their bodies cannot often transmute those dis-eases and so we hear — and are wont to remark “how odd or amazing” — that so-an-so’s dog (and sometimes cat) has a very similar or same disease (cancer, intestinal diseases, and even emotional problelms) as does their owner. Frankly, it’s not odd at all, nor is it a coincidence. It would be wonderful to have more *therapy* or *comfort* dogs and their persons…to help more people in need! Thank you for your awareness and compassion!! Eden Cross, Animal Communicator

      1. It is truly *special* when dogs / animals are shown to the nation and the world in fact, as doing very specific, very important work that only dogs can do. While there are so many of us animal lovers spread across the planet, unfortunately there are many human beings who — sadly — just *don’t-get-it*. When a dog is shown doing such important work my H-O-P-E is always that it begins to *teach* the ones of us who don’t believe that animals are intelligent, extremely capable of doing myriad kinds of jobs with and for humans, most often helping to make our lives happier, healthier, and much fuller, and that they ARE important sentient beings, and terrifically important to the human race! DOGS ROCK!!! ♥

    2. Gwendolyn, thank you for your note. I hope you decide to pursue the therapy or service dog work. To find out more information on training, guidelines and more, you may want to visit the websites of the organizations listed in this blog. Please keep me posted. Happy New Year, and give your dog a hug for me.

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