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Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Therapeutic Dogs For Boston Bomb Victims
Golden Retrievers who helped comfort Newtown families head to Boston to make bomb victims smile
It won't be easy for the citizens of Boston to forget last week's horrific bombings.
But a group of Golden Retrievers are at least providing some comfort to the victims, families and citizens of Boston who remain heartbroken after the attack which devastated the city.
Five dogs have traveled from Illinois, where they are sponsored and trained by Lutheran Church Charities, to give hugs to victims in their hospital beds and to citizens on the streets.
It's a gig that the loving animals know well; two of the dogs - Addie and Maggie - have been in Newtown, Connecticut since December to give comfort to the children affected by the shootings.
Helping out: Five golden retrievers from Lutheran Church Charities are giving comfort to bombing victims
But as it is spring break, the dogs have had the week off, so headed with three other pooches - Isaiah, Luther and Ruthie - to comfort those shaken by the attacks on Monday.
Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, told ABC News that at first the patients have simply smiled, but within minutes, they begin sharing the details of the horrific day with the animals.
'They tell the dog the story of what happened,' Hetzner said. 'Dogs are great listeners... They can sense when someone is struggling.'
The animals are certified service dogs, but instead of being matched with individuals with disabilities, they visit churches, hospitals, schools and wherever they are needed to bring comfort.
Furry friends: The animals have also been in Newtown to bring comfort in the aftermath of the shooting
Popular: Nurses pet the dogs, who often allow victims to open up about what they have suffered
The dogs arrived in Boston on Tuesday and greeted passersby outside the First Lutheran Church of Boston on Berkeley Street.
'Some people hold onto the dog for five minutes or more because that's what they need,' Hetzner said. 'It depends on the person and what they're going through.'
Scientific evidence shows dogs have a healing power for people who have suffered traumatic events, Dr. Emma Raizman, a pediatrician at the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital, told ABC News.
The animals help decrease patients' stress by prompting the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone that bonds mothers to babies, she explained.
Loved: The dogs also spent time outside a Boston church to spend time with citizens of the city
Calming: The dogs put people who have suffered a trauma at ease, their trainers said
Studies have shown patients who spend time with dogs have higher levels of dopamine, which is known to relive depression, as well as endorphins and adrenaline.
'It's actually been shown to help more than medication in a lot of the veterans, and you don't have the side effect of medications,' Raizman said, adding that many people prefer to share details of traumatic events with a dog rather than with another person.
It's a model that other people are taking on too.
One Boston resident, Amber Hathaway, posted a message on Reddit to welcome citizens to hug her dogs on Wednesday afternoon in Boston Common.
Loving: The animals are trained service dogs and travel all over the country to help wherever they can
Beloved: Two of the dogs have been at Newtown to offer comfort to children since the shootings
'I don't have enough money to donate much, I'm not an EMT or anything like that, and no one has taken me up on my post for available housing for displaced runners,' she wrote.
'But I still want to help. The only things I have to offer are two stupid, friendly dogs who make me feel better when the [stuff] hits the fan.'
Photographs show her pugs, along a corgi and a Samoyed bringing smiles to people's faces, a moment of respite in the painful aftermath of Monday's bombings.