“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.” That is the mission statement for the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs based out of Northbrook, Illinois. These 19 golden retrievers spend their time traveling across the country with their handlers to areas where disaster strikes and people are in need of some comfort. The LCC Comfort Dogs have been deployed to areas where there have been natural disasters such as Texas and Baton Rouge, as well as areas that have fallen subject to mass shootings including Dallas, Orlando and Las Vegas just several days ago. But while this group has been around since 2008, their first real deployment was to Newtown, CT after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
On Dec. 17, 2012, according to the Chicago Tribune, about ten golden retrievers were said to have shown up in Newtown ready to provide a break from reality to teachers, students and parents within the community. Tim Hetzner, the president of the non-profit organization said, “Dogs are non-judgemental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone. It creates the atmosphere for people to share.” I strongly agree with that because, while around anybody who has gone through a tragic event and survived, they might not want to be pressured into talking about how they are feeling or what happened. With dogs, you can simply feel safe knowing that someone is there listening to you or just being there for you. You can feel them there and automatically feel safer.
In 2008, five students were killed by a gunman at Northern Illinois University. Upon hearing this tragic news, associates of the Lutheran Church Charities brought a group of just a few dogs to the campus in order to, hopefully, provide a distraction. This went well beyond their expectations, and soon after, students were petitioning for them to bring the comfort dogs back. They have grown from just a handful of dogs around Chicago, to 60 dogs in six different states in 2012 and even more now.
The mission for the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs has always been to simply provide a distraction and a sense of familiarity to anyone who finds themselves caught up in any kind of tragedy. With everything happening in our current environmental and social climate, I think it is safe to say that we could all use a little comfort in our lives.