Deployed by the Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry and Hearts of Mercy & Compassion Ministry, nine golden retrievers came from Georgia, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennesse to comfort everyone with their furry paws and empathetic eyes.
In a devastating incident last month, the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo complex in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed, leaving 97 people dead. A crew of dedicated rescue workers from all around America was deployed in the area to help with the recovery process and they have been working tirelessly for the past three weeks. Now another team has arrived at the Champlain Towers South to help but they offer an unusual type of assistance. Deployed by the Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry and Hearts of Mercy & Compassion Ministry, nine golden retrievers came from Georgia, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennesse to comfort everyone with their furry paws and empathetic eyes.
The purpose of these dogs, according to the organization, was to help all the first responders in the area process their grief as they continue with the grueling search and keep up with the increasing death toll. "We're very concerned about their mental health," Bonnie Fear, an LCC K-9 crisis response coordinator, told NPR. The gorgeous retrievers brought much-needed relief to the first responders who have been continuously working to find victims and comforting family members who have lost their loved ones.
These K-9s arrived in Surfside on July 6 and remained in town spreading smiles until Monday, July 12. During their stay, the team remained at a makeshift memorial which was located near the collapsed tower. They were available to be pet by anyone, including people mourning their loved ones and residents of the town who are struggling to grasp the magnitude of the recent disaster, reports USA Today. The pups wore blue vests with a sign "Please Pet Me" and, as Fear explained, "They are highly trained working dogs that remain calm in any situation and they are here for people to pet."
As soon as the squad arrived at the memorial people began petting them with tears in their eyes and some with huge smiles, recalled Fear. "They're just either shocked or pleased that we show up in time of crisis just for the people that are hurting and affected by the crisis," the coordinator said. The pups also visited a family assistance center which was set up by the Red Cross and a local Publix grocery store. "Our prayer for [first responders] is that they make it through, they find what they need to mentally process and to know, in their minds, that they found someone's loved one, they made a difference for the families," said Fear as the group placed hearts and markers at the memorial site for each person who died in the tragedy so visitors can sign them leave messages of condolence. "And I hope they hang on to that."
There are more than 130 LCC K-9 comfort dogs in 27 states that serve at schools, hospitals, hospice and rehab centers, nursing homes, and cancer centers. These cuddly animals are trained to interact with people of all ages who are suffering. Fear revealed that the comfort dogs have visited disaster or crisis sites across the country, but noted that they are only deployed if a local Lutheran church issues an invitation. This time, Holy Cross Lutheran Church & School in North Miami had sent out an invitation and Fear revealed that they arrived within 24 hours after being called.
Cover image source: Facebook | LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs