Comfort Dogs Bring Solace to a Grieving Connecticut Town

Newtown Dog and Little Girl
Courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities
Comfort dogs with the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Parish traveled to Newtown this weekend after a gunman killed 26 people at an elementary school.

In the days since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the small Connecticut town of Newtown has seen a continuous outpouring of compassion — and not just from humans.

Nine very special Golden Retrievers traveled nearly a thousand miles this weekend from Addison, Ill., to Connecticut to do what they do best — lend a consoling cuddle. They’re comfort dogs with the K-9 Parish of Lutheran Church Charities, and a Newtown church invited them to the grieving town to provide relief and cheer, if only momentary, for the adults and children there.

We caught up with LCC’s canine coordinator, Dona Martin, who’s in Newtown with her dog Ruthie.

Q. What is the role of these comfort dogs in Newtown?

A. Dona Martin: "They show mercy and compassion to the people that are hurting here. Some of these children haven’t smiled in days; and the parents, the same. Somehow just petting the dogs gives them comfort, and smiles come on their face. Parents are just thanking us tremendously for being here. We've had people rolling down their windows as they’ve driven by in cars, just saying, ‘Thank you for being here.’"

Q. What reactions to the dogs have stood out to you most since you've been there?

A. "A mother had said to us, ‘My child has not spoken in days.’ And she just started, as she was petting the dog, talking to the dog. Those are really poignant times for us."

Golden Retrievers Comfort Newtown Residents

Newtown Dogs

Courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities

Left to right: Dona Martin with Ruthie, LCC president Tim Hetzner, Dan Fulkerson with Prince, Karen Fulkerson, Pastor Tim Engel with Barnabas, Tim Griffin with Abbi, Tim Kurth with Luther and Lynn Buhrke with Chewie.

Newtown Dogs

Courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities

Newtown Dogs

Courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities

Newtown Dogs

Courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities

Newtown Dogs

Courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities

Newtown Dogs

Courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities

Q. Do you find that comfort dogs have a way to uniquely connect with children?

A. "I think they can connect with anybody, children or adults. There’s no age limit that doesn’t need comfort. But, of course, the children love to see the dogs."

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