Companionship with our dogs leads many of us to realize that during difficult times, dogs can provide tremendous comfort. Their interactions with us can provide a ballast that centers us during emotionally difficult times. Whether it is through playfulness, snuggling, or just lying on the floor at our feet, we know that they have our backs.
Some dogs do this professionally, as it turns out. The organization LCC K9 Comfort Dogs is a group headquartered in Illinois, but has its dogs all over the country ready for deployment.
After traumatic events, these dogs are sent with handlers to provide comfort to survivors. Some events make national news, such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando while other events are only known to local residents (for example, the tragic loss of a beloved teacher in a small town). The organization is not in it for the attention or adulation. Rather, they wish to offer comfort in one of the most incredible yet simple methods available: with dogs.
All of their dogs are Golden Retrievers, and begin their training at eight weeks. They play with litter mates while wearing puppy vests, and according to LCC K9 director Tim Hetzner, “it is just as cute as you can imagine.”
Once the dogs with the best temperaments are determined, they go through rigorous training in which they learn to calmly sit with all sorts of people. They don’t perform tasks or go into dangerous areas, but they do have to meet people they’ve never seen before and sit with them. Many of these people openly weep or just bury their faces in the dog fur. And the dogs know that all they have to do is be calm.
Connor Dietrich, one of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School said, “These dogs helped more than any human could. They can sense if you’re having a bad day, and cuddle up to you and play with you until you feel better. They are the biggest asset to our healing.”
Currently, the comfort dog traveling has been put on hold, but the organization does offer virtual healing for people in areas that have encountered traumas. None of us would ever doubt the essential nature of a good dog.