By Brett Rosner, WSB-TV
“Comfort dogs” are being used in Orlando to provide encouragement and hope to those affected by the tragic shooting this weekend that left 49 innocent people dead.
The Lutheran Church Charities Comfort Dogs have been at the scene of countless acts of violence from the Sandy Hook Shooting to the Boston Marathon Bombing.
Twelve dogs and 20 volunteers went to Orlando early Monday where they have spent the day providing warmth and relief to the Orlando community, officials said.
“They help people relax and calm down,” Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, told ABC News.
“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”
The program started in August 2008 with four dogs, Hetzner said, and now the group has expanded to include more than 100 dogs in 23 states.
The dogs go through an intensive training program with volunteers before they are sent out as comforters, Hetzner said.
In Orlando, the comfort dogs are working with local hospitals and first responders, hoping to provide some hope to injured victims and all members of the community affected by the violence.
Travel for the dogs and volunteers is crowd-funded by donations from people looking for ways to help out those affected in Orlando.