A group of golden retrievers has been deployed from Chicago to Connecticut to do something that humans may not be able to do; provide comfort to those who are suffering from the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.
A team of 10 canines made an 800-mile trip over the weekend in order to spend time with residents of Newtown, Connecticut. Their mission is to warm hearts as people begin to open up about the shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, resulting in the death of 27 people, including the shooter.
The dogs are a part of an Addison-based organization of which Tim Hetzner is president. He suggested that the dogs sometimes do the job that humans can't.
"Dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone," Hetzner said. "It creates the atmosphere for people to share."
The dog's handlers will provide those affected with support, asking them to talk or pray and allowing them to pet the dogs for comfort, according to The New York Times. But these dogs don't just take a back seat. Each of them have their own business card complete with a name, Facebook page, Twitter account and email so that people who become attached can stay in touch with them.
Back at home, the dogs make frequent runs to nursing homes, hospitals, and parks.
"You could tell which ones … were really struggling with their grief because they were quiet," Hetzner said. "They would pet the dog, and they would just be quiet."
The dogs were first introduced at Northern Illinois University in 2008 after a gunman shot and killed five people. A group of dog care takers brought some dogs to the school, hoping that they would provide a distraction.
"The trip was so successful that weeks later students petitioned university leadership to bring comfort dogs back to campus," Hetzner told the Times.
Now over 60 dogs are a part of the program.