A Dog is a Child’s Best Friend: Comforting Newtown, CT
After living through such horror, there is beauty to be found in Newtown, CT.
The community’s children and families are receiving consolation and love to help them heal with a visit from a five pups called the K-9 Comfort Dogs.
Tim Hetzner is the president of the Lutheran Church Charities, an organization based out of Chicago that has spent the last four years training golden retrievers to comfort people in times of disaster.
He was among the staff that traveled to Connecticut with their “fleet” of wonderpups to help bring warmth, kindness, and a listening ear from man’s best friend. Their first stop was to visit the children of Sandy Hook Elementary.
“We brought the dogs in every day so parents and their children could spend time with them,” Tim says. “Directly and indirectly, children and parents came to pet the dogs. Some would start crying, but others would be sad when they first arrived and would smile as they pet the dogs.”
Let the Healing Begin
The town—and the rest of the nation—has had their hearts stolen with images of the children petting and cuddling with their new friends. Tim has been able to witness some of the healing moments of these children.
“A mother was telling me she couldn’t get her daughter to speak after what took place on Friday, she wouldn’t talk to anyone,” Tim says. “So her mother brought her in. When the girl started petting the dog, she started talking to it. Her mother cried.”
Another one of the dog handlers witnessed a moment where a little boy started telling the dog what he saw happen last Friday. Listening to this, the boy’s parent told the handler, “He hasn’t shared that with us.”
The dogs have brought listening ears, smiles to faces, and hope to lives that needed something good to hold onto this week.
“They’re furry counselors—they’re confidential and non-judgmental,” Tim says. “The dogs are good listeners because they don’t speak.”
Four years ago, the Lutheran Church Charities started the K-9 Comfort Dogs program when they witnessed the incredible comforting power of these dogs. Since the program’s creation, they’ve gone from four to 60 trained dogs in six states.
After last Friday’s events, the Comfort Dogs received a request to visit the town and comfort the community. Not only are the dogs spending time with the Sandy Hook Elementary children, high school students in Newtown also got to spend some time with the pups.
“I think some of the high school kids have taken this harder than some,” Tim says. “I overheard a kid saying to his friends, ‘My dad was one of the first responders, and when he comes home every night, he doesn’t talk’.”
When the Comfort Dogs arrived at the high school, they were were greeted with “Oohs” and “Aahs” by a gym full of students. Soon after their principal shared a few words the dogs were mobbed by the loving teenagers.
“I saw eight or 10 students around a dog,” Tim says, his voice cracking. “No matter where you go, this is what you see.”
The K-9 Comfort Dogs are still in Newtown, and will be for the time being.
These dogs are helping a community heal in a way words, hugs, and kisses can’t. Dogs are helping people heal. And one of the most incredible things about our life in this world is how love transcends—it transcends state borders, cultures, even creation.
If you’d like to support the Lutheran Church Charities’ efforts, please donate to their fundraising page by clicking here.