12 Golden Retrievers Arrive in Florida To Comfort Grieving Orlando
In this heartwarming deployment, dogs have proven again to truly being man's best friend.
Following the Orlando mass shooting that took the lives of 50 people, including the shooter, 12 golden retrievers have come to the rescue to provide much-needed comfort to the survivors, the grieving and the weary medical workers.
The New York Times reported that the comfort dogs which traveled all the way to Florida are part of the K-9 Comfort Dogs team. Founded in 2008, it is a program run by the Lutheran Church Charities in Northbrook, Illinois.
These dogs are somewhat veterans in giving love and hope, as the team also comforted the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
Tim Hetzner, president of the charity, said the dogs were helping provide a feeling of security to the people they visit. He said many people who pet the dogs break down, allowing them to have a moment of vulnerability, which is necessary during these stressful situations.
The dogs and their handlers paid visits to churches and hospitals in Orlando, and even attended vigils and memorial services.
"Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking," Hetzner told ABC News, adding that the canines are "good listeners" and are not judgmental.
The team has more than 120 comfort dogs in 23 states. These lovable canines have gone under extensive training similar to service animals.
Also known as emotional support dogs, comfort dogs have become familiar sights in nursing homes and college campuses.
According to National Geographic, the bond between humans and dogs goes back thousands of years. Wolves are dogs' ancestors and they have been attracted to humans living in settlements as a source of food. Over time, they became self-domesticated.
And in this bond, it's not only the humans that benefit. Research shows that petting releases oxytocin, a hormone linked to affection, in both the human and the dog. Studies also reveal that they help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
In a highly upsetting situation like the Orlando shooting, dogs are there to give "unconditional love" and hope to us all.