How does a community move on from a tragedy as earth-shattering as the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting? There’s no easy answer, but a team of comfort animals is making their way from Chicago to the small suburban town to help calm and comfort survivors. Lutheran Church Charities sent around 10 dogs on an 800-mile journey to provide paws to hold onto.
“Dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone,” said Tim Hetzner, who runs the program. “It creates the atmosphere for people to share.”The group arrived in Newtown on Sunday, and stopped by the Christ the King Lutheran Church, where children were able to spend time petting and cuddling with the dogs. The comfort-dog program was started five years ago, after a mass shooting at Northern Illinois University. Since then, the program has grown to more than 60 dogs in five states.
Newtown’s local shelter, Kitten Associates, Inc., has also opened its doors to grieving kids and their families. The shelter is allowing families to visit and spend quality time with its residents.
”There are a lot of people that are hurting,“ said Hetzner. “It’s good for the children to have something that is not the shooting.”