I am a dog lover. I needed to tell you that upfront because I have had dogs, or “furry kids”, in my house for the last 22 years. If you’re like me, you know first hand how the nuzzle on your hand, or the excited welcome lifts your heart after a long day. You probably also know the silly songs you make up for them, and the long conversations you can have with them. Dogs are good listeners. It’s called unconditional love. My westie Gomer is almost 18, and was with me after the death of my first husband. I truly believe that without that bond, along with my faith and family I don’t think I would have healed so well. So, I am a softie when it comes to canines.
I first learned about Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs a couple years ago when they were dispatched to the Sandy Hood tragedy. I was reminded again about their patient, loving ministry when I saw pictures of them being hugged by tearful survivors of the Las Vegas tragedy. When we mentioned the healing therapy of dogs on the air several KTIS friends called to share their stories and one was named Pam Lienemann who is the “mom” and, yes, social media manager to one of the LCC comfort dogs. His name is Gideon and he lives right her in the Twin Cities! Gideon and 12 other golden retrievers took off for Las Vegas on a moments notice and arrived in unison at the hospital where many survivors were recovering. These dogs formed bonds and did what they do best, radiate love and compassion. Not only for the bedridden but also for the emergency responders and the staff. Many of these furry angels arrived from hurricane hit areas in Florida and Houston. All of the comfort dogs have their own Facebook page AND are commissioned with a verse. Gideon’s is Judges 6:12, “When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, He said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
These comfort dogs along with the thirty human handlers are veterans to having their “paws on the ground after disasters, natural or otherwise.” Even amidst the horrors of the Las Vegas shooting it was stunning how quickly these four-legged angels could spread smiles along with tears that needed to flow. Why? LCC Tim Hetzner told USA Today, “Dogs don’t take notes and are comfortable to talk to.” And don’t forget about all that unconditional love.