Comfort dogs have arrived in Orlando, Florida, to help victims, their families, rescue and hospital personnel, and the community deal with the tragedy that unfolded at Pulse nightclub on Sunday. Many of those dogs are coming from Lutheran Church Charities (LLC), whose comfort dog program is based in Northbrook, Illinois, but which has dogs in affiliate Lutheran churches across the country.
Rev. Gregory S. Walton, president of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, put out a call for dogs to visit, and the response was immediate, with comfort dogs flying in from around the country. In Orlando, the LLC dogs are setting up camp at Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando, under the direction of Pastor Billy Brath.
“Trinity has a ministry of outreach to the LGBT community that surrounds their congregation,” said LLC. “We will be working in the hospitals with those who were injured and will also be working with all the first responders. … Please consider the heartbreak, chaos, and overwhelming grief that this community, the victims, their families, and the first responders are going through because of this horrific incident.”
Here are some of the dogs who made the trip:
Gracie is an LCC comfort dog at Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Davenport, Iowa, who flew out of Chicago with her handlers, Scott and Sandy. “We were invited by the Lutheran District to bring our message of comfort and compassion for those who are grieving loss and for those who are injured and hospitalized,” her Facebook page states.
“Her purpose is to share love and compassion with those who are suffering,” Marsh-Johnson, another of her handlers, told News10.com. “And dogs are wonderful listeners, and that’s so much of what these people need. … We encourage those who are grieving to sit down on the floor and pet dogs like Gracie. The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”
Phoebe is a comfort dog at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Worth, Texas. She was due to fly out on Monday with her handlers, but bad weather delayed the trip until Tuesday. “I know there is a reason I am still here today, but my heart is with the others already in Florida,” she “wrote” on Facebook. “We ask for your prayers as we go to Orlando — for the many people who have been affected, for safe travel for all the teams, and for clear directions from HIM as to where we can be most comforting.”
Kye is a LLC comfort dog working through Immanuel Lutheran Church and School in Belvidere, Illinois, who flew out with the Chicago group on Monday morning.
“My new friend and seat mate on our flight to Orlando,” she “wrote” on Facebook. “She is so kind! She’s traveling home from San Francisco where she attends college. She was frightened for her friends when she heard about the shootings but says they were all safe.”
Sasha works through Island Lutheran Church in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. “I’m on the road early this morning to Orlando,” she wrote on Facebook. “Please pray for travel mercies as we join up with other LCC K9 Comfort Dogs deploying to Orlando today. … Pray for peace and healing for the Orlando community and all those affected by the tragedy.”
Barnabas is a comfort dog for Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Portage, Indiana, who who flew with two of his handlers on Monday. “I met this girl waiting in line at Ohare,” he “wrote” on Facebook. “I’m on my way with lots of my friends to bring love mercy and compassion to the people of Orlando.”
Katie is an LCC comfort-dog-in-training based in Freemont, Nebraska. She and her handlers drove to Chicago last night and flew with Gracie and her handlers to Orlando on Monday morning. “We just landed in Orlando,” she “wrote” on Facebook. “I will try and keep you posted on our work as best as I can. Doing what we do best. Bringing COMFORT to those in need. Thank you for all the support through prayers, donations, and kind words!”
Jewel is a LCC comfort dog based in Loudon, Tennessee, at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church. “We will be working in the hospitals with those who were injured and will also be working with all the first responders,” her handler said on Facebook. “Please keep everyone involved in your prayers.”
Visit LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs’ Facebook page to get updates on how the dogs are helping those affected deal with the horror of Sunday’s shooting.