ORLANDO, Fla. — Lutheran Church Charities arrived in Orlando with 11 comfort dogs from seven states to give solace to residents and help them deal with Sunday’s Pulse nightclub shooting massacre.
The charity, which does not charge for its services, takes dogs all over the country to help people and communities in pain.
“We will be there to bring the mercy, compassion, and presence of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering because of this horrific incident,” the group said on its website of the shooting, which left 49 victims dead and 53 injured. “We will be working in the hospitals with those who were injured and will also be working with all the first responders.”
Lutheran Church Charities was being hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando.
“The dogs are great listeners, they’re confidential, they’re non-judgmental and they’re here just to love on people and help people process what they’ve gone through,” Trinity Lutheran Church said on its Facebook page.
The first stop was the Beardall Senior Center, where families have been getting updates on their loved ones since Sunday's shooting.
“Our policy is, if all humanely possible, put boots and paws on the ground within 24 hours of the invite,” said Tim Hetzner of K-9 Comfort Dogs.
Hetzner has been with the dogs on just about every major trip since 2008, from the Boston bombings to the Sandy Hook shootings.
“It still gets me because you feel with the people you serve,” he said.
Trinity Downtown Lutheran Church on East Livingston Street helped bring the dogs in.
The group also has plans to go to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where survivors are still recovering.
“When you get relaxed with a dog that just wants to love on you, you feel comfortable to talk. Many times people will talk to a dog before they talk to a person,” said Hetzner.
The dogs spend months training before they're put into service.
“Oh my God. We are getting love from everywhere,” said a victim’s friend, Luna Mendez.
The dogs will be at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts from 6-8 p.m.
Anyone who would like to spend some time with one of the comfort dogs while they are in Orlando can request a site visit on the Lutheran Church Charities website.
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