Therapy Dogs Travel to Boston to Offer Comfort

A boy gets relief by hugging one of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs. LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs/Facebook

As Boston grieves and tries to move past Monday's tragic marathon bombings, the community can find comfort in five specially trained golden retrievers.

Three of the therapy dogs are flying from Chicago, and they will be joined in Boston by two others that have been working with students at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., since December.

The comforting canines, sent by Lutheran Church Charities in Addison, Ill., will be in Boston until at least Sunday. They’ll be stationed at First Lutheran Church, which is located just blocks from the marathon finish line and the site of the bombings.

The team of golden retrievers will likely also visit Boston hospitals where more than 100 victims are being treated.

“I would imagine their effect will be the same as it was in Newtown,” Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, told “They bring a calming effect to people and help them process the various emotions that they go through in times like this.”

The retrievers in the K-9 Parish Comfort Dog program are trained to work in extremely stressful situations, and each of the dogs has undergone eight months to a year of service training.

The Lutheran Church started the K-9 Parish Comfort Dog program in 2008 after a gunman killed five students at Northern Illinois University. Today, the initiative has grown from just a few dogs in the Chicago area to 60 dogs in six states.

When the dogs aren’t providing comfort during times of tragedy, they visit people in hospitals and nursing homes. Each of the dogs carries a business card with its name, Facebook page, Twitter account and email so the people they comfort can keep in touch.