Dogs Make It Better: Goldendoodle Puppies Bring Joy to Sandy Hook Survivors
Three weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, Laura Feinstein, a teacher at the school, received a letter from a breeder in Texas. She had a litter of nine Goldendoodles. They were born Dec. 14 -- the same day as the massacre. The breeder wondered whether there were any "Sandy Hook staff, families, victims' families, first responders, or anyone in the community affected by the tragedy who might find some comfort in taking on a pup."
There were. Feinstein responded to the breeder, saying that survivors would be delighted, according to a story she wrote about the affair for WTOP.
"I just knew this was going to be a new beginning for my family," she writes.
Photos were sent, and people picked out their dogs. Feinstein and her family chose a male pup and named him Zeus, "Protector and Ruler of the Heavens."
As the staff waited for the pups to grow up enough to be adopted, the breeder, who is unnamed in the article, sent weekly updates and photos. These offered a bright spot in a school and community under such strain.
"Those of us on staff who had agreed to take pups were often found huddled during our lunch period sharing photos, a temporary distraction from the struggles we faced adjusting to our new location and our new lives," Feinstein writes. "Whenever I was having a bad moment, I found myself going to the camera roll on my iPhone to sneak a peek at Zeus, who was the positive association I used to overshadow negative thoughts."
On Feb. 16, when the pups were nine weeks old, they arrived at a local airport, where "the reception emotionally overwhelming. It was simply beautiful to see smiling faces and tears of joy."
"I have to say when Zeus was handed to me I smiled like I hadn't smiled in more than two months. His puppy breath and warm little body all snuggled up to you puts you in instant relaxation mode."
Watch a video of Zeus playing with Fernando, Feinstein's black Labrador Retriever:
Feinstein now cares for Zeus with her college-age daughter, and doing so has brought them closer. She ends her article by thanking the breeder for her kindness, and for reaching out:
"We will never forget what happened on Dec. 14, but a very special person, who had a team of others to support her efforts, did a kind and generous thing for a community of people who were in tremendous pain. I will be forever grateful for that."