fter a horrible event like the shooting in Las Vegas, many of us struggle to find the little things that make us feel happy, or at least a little better for awhile. We "look for the helpers" and focus on the acts of love and bravery, even as we look into the faces of the victims and read about the wonderful people whose lives were tragically cut short. This is about the helpers. This is about helpers whose sole purpose is to bring comfort to those who need it. Which is all of us.
This is the team from LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministries who have been deployed to Las Vegas.
The non-profit organization based out of Illinois sent in a team of golden retrievers to do what the dogs do best – provide comfort to those who need it. The K-9 Ministry is a branch of Lutheran Church Charities. Since 2008 they have been traveling to sites of school and mass shootings, disaster zones, and anywhere else where people are in need of comfort.
The dogs with their handlers are making the rounds in hospitals, schools, convention centers, and elsewhere in the Las Vegas area.
Why dogs? According to K-9 Comfort Dogs, “A dog is a friend who brings a calming influence, allowing people to open up their hearts and receive help for what is affecting them.” The dogs only go where they are invited, and they try to be there within 24 hours.
In some instances, there simply are no words that can make us feel better. What we need is time, space to feel sad, and a hug that lasts as long as we need.
Tim Hetzner, president and CEO of Lutheran Church Charities and founder of the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministries said, “Dogs have an incredible sense of when somebody is hurting. They’ll just come and lay themselves into somebody’s lap.” The Comfort Dog Ministries currently has 19 dogs in Las Vegas. The dogs hail from different states, are all golden retrievers, and all have only one mission – to make people who are hurting, emotionally and physically, feel a little bit better. And it works.
K-9 Lois, a Las Vegas local, makes the rounds visiting victims like Michael Caster.
Research has shown that dogs can provide real, measurable comfort. Petting a dog can decrease levels of stress hormones, regulate breathing, and lower blood pressure. Research also has shown that petting releases oxytocin, a hormone associated affection that makes us feel good and loved. This is true for both the dog and the human!
It's not just the victims that need comfort.
First responders, nurses, doctors, and anyone else who has been involved in the aftermath of the shooting are in need of the dogs’ special brand of care. The stress, long hours, and memories of what they’ve witnessed take a toll on those on the front lines.
And it didn’t end there…