June 17, 2016 | Carey Wedler
(ANTIMEDIA) Support for victims of the Orlando tragedy has flowed from human beings around the world, and as people rally to show solidarity — even in unexpected places — another group is contributing to the healing process, as well: golden retrievers.
K-9 Comfort Dogs is an organization that trains golden retrievers to be therapy dogs and dispatches them to areas of crisis and natural disaster to provide relief to victims. The donation-based Illinois group, which is sponsored by Lutheran Church Charities, sends a “sea of fur” to areas where humans are in need of comfort.
After receiving an invitation from the Trinity Lutheran Church in Florida, president of K-9 Comfort, Tim Hetzner, sent 12 golden retrievers from seven states — as well as 20 human volunteer handlers — to comfort the community.
Hetzner told CBS News about one young man who had invited a friend from out-of-town to Pulse the evening of the shooting. His friend died, but he survived, leaving the young man feeling not only devastated, but guilty. “He didn’t talk to anyone,” Hetzner recounted. “He just stood there. And then slowly, he got down and started petting the dog… And then he started asking one or two questions about the dog, and then said, ‘You know, I lost my friend.’ And then he explained what had happened.”
Hetzner believes the golden retrievers’ gentle nature helped the young man open up. “With a golden, you don’t feel alone, and you know that you’re loved,” he told CBS. “That helps people at the time to cope and to talk, and to see that there’s hope. There’s light.”