Comfort Dogs helping Sutherland Springs heal
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX – Man’s best friend is standing with Sutherland Springs.
The Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs are helping the small town come to terms with a tragedy that’s simply beyond words.
“We had boots and paws on the ground within 24 hours,” says LCC President/CEO Tim Hetzner. “Dogs have a sense. They know when somebody’s hurting. They edge over to somebody if they sense it.”
The dogs offer a friendly face, and a paw to hold, for when your world is shattered.
"Each crisis is different. But grief is grief,” Hetzner says.
The Comfort Dogs and their loyal handlers nudged their way into our hearts after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
"We still have a dog in that school every day,” Hetzner says.
They travel the country to natural disasters, mass shootings - anywhere comfort is needed. This week, it’s Sutherland Springs.
"Many times, they'll talk to the dog before someone else,” Hetzner says.
The dogs have spent time with victims' families, survivors and law enforcement.
"Y'all touched our daughter. She's a first responder,” a local woman said in a video from a prayer vigil posted to LCC’s Facebook page. “She smiled for the first time since Sunday.”
Talking is part of the healing process. And as any dog lover knows, they’re great listeners.
"We worked with a family yesterday that was not in the church, but they're right across from the church, and they're the first ones that made the 911 call. The shooter was in their yard, shooting,” Hetzner says. "She made the statement: ‘We sit on our porch. This was my peaceful area.’ And that's not the case anymore."
It will take time for Sutherland Springs to heal. But if a child feels safe again, even just for a moment, it’s a job well done by these creature comforts.
Soon the Comfort Dogs will go back home, but they leave behind stuffed animal versions of themselves that are being given to children for moments comfort is needed.
By EMILY BAUCUM