Much of America is still reeling from the horrible shooting nearly two weeks ago in Las Vegas, NV–dubbed the deadliest shooting in our nation’s history. Thousands of concert goers–those who were injured and those who made it out with barely a scratch–and the families of victims who lost their lives, are all having a hard time coping with what happened. The City That Never Sleeps–the city that was once full of so much life, spirit and energy–seems to be on Zombie mode, and who can blame its residents? To help those grieving in the aftermath of the shooting, charity groups believe they have found a way to bring back the smiles to the city: dogs.
Dozens of charities across the nation are donating comfort dogs to help those who are literally grief stricken. These dogs are trained in the art of healing and are visiting people across the city to cheer them up and make sure that their spirits remain high. In addition to visiting residents of the city, they are visiting shooting victims in the hospital in the hopes of showing victims that the world is still good after all. They are also scheduled to visit the families of victims’, especially those who lost loved ones.
Dogs have been used for therapy purposes for hundreds of years and for good reason: dogs make people happy. Despite popular belief, the breeding of dogs as human companions wasn’t a recent development. There is strong evidence that dogs were domesticated as far as 15,000 years ago, and that people were burying their canine friends as long as 14,000 years ago. Loyal, devoted and affectionate, dogs were seemingly put on this earth to be man’s best friend. Incidentally, the traits that make us love our pups so much are those that also improve our physical and mental health.
Dogs have a knack for making people feel better, even those that believe they’ll remain sad forever. While human companionship and comfort is much needed at a time like this, there is just something that canines can offer that most bipeds cannot: unconditional and unbiased support and love. Dogs seem content to help humans bear a burden as heavy as the one left by the Vegas shooting. Best of all, they make victims feel more comfortable talking about an incident that would otherwise be too horrific to rehash.
Comfort dog handler and President and CEO of Lutheran Church Charities–the charity heading the comfort dog movement–Tim Hetzner, put it best: “The beauty about a dog is that they’re actually comfort rugs. They show unconditional love, they’re confidential, they don’t keep notes and they’re non-judgmental…When somebody pets a dog, that calms them down, and when they’re calmed down, they’re able to share what they’re feeling…An important part of that healing process is to be able to talk about it, and dogs are a good place to start to talk about it.”
There is no way to wipe the grief from victims and their families entirely, but canine companions are proving to go a long ways towards helping people heal. If you would like to be apart of the Comfort Dogs for Vegas movement, watch this video about what type of training comfort dogs undergo and how they’re able to help people feel whole again–or at least as whole as they’re able to.