Time and time again, the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs have been there for Americans in their darkest hours.
The group’s comfort dogs and their handlers have visited and helped communities after devastating tragedies such as Sandy Hook and the Pulse nightclub shootings.
This week, 19 of their comfort dogs, along with 30 handlers, went to Las Vegas in the wake of the mass shooting, which took the lives of 59 people and injured more than 500.
The horrific event, which now marks the deadliest mass shooting in the country, has left the Last Vegas community shaken.
Since their arrival, the dogs have visited Las Vegas hospitals, schools, churches and vigils to bring love and joy to anyone who needs it, including victims and first responders.
Rev. Joshua R. Gale, the executive director of LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, says that these animals are trained in handling these difficult situations, in whatever environment.
“Some of the commands include the dog laying across the lap of a person, being on the floor with a child, or up leaning against a hospital bed,” Gale says, adding that the handlers are always present to ensure the dog’s safety, as well as to help and comfort people, too.
Gale says that each person has a different response to the dogs: some cry, some hug the dogs, while others simply enjoy the peace of being away from the chaos of what just happened.
But no matter what their mood is around the dogs, the canines are great equalizers. As he puts it, “They are non-judgmental, and are there to listen.”
Their impact has been felt greatly already in Las Vegas as the city mourns. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper documented his time with the comfort dogs, saying they, “help a lot of people who are grieving and in need.”
Gale points out that both the dogs and the handlers alike get well-deserved breaks from the emotional toll this work can take (because of their empathy, the dogs can absorb some of the stress of the situation).
“The handlers are dedicated, selfless people who are dedicated to this work and do it all on a volunteer basis, earning them a spot in the list of heroes involved in this tragedy,” he adds.
While most of the LCC K-9 comfort dogs will return to their respective homes in the coming days and weeks, Gale says one comfort dog will be permanently placed there in Las Vegas at First Good Shepherd church.
“There will be comfort dog work done in Las Vegas for a long time,” he says.
You can help donate to LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs and their travel expenses here.
Images via LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs Facebook