Therapy dogs brought to Newtown to help ease pain
NEWTOWN, Conn. (WHDH) -- Ava Foss, 8, escaped the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and now fills her days waiting to go back to school. The soft touch of Luke, a therapy dog, is helping her cope.
“They always cheer me up when I walk around. I just love animals,” said Ava.
Luke was one of dozens of therapy dogs brought to Newtown to comfort anyone who needed it.
"To some people, we've seen this with children; it brings a sense of calmness in a time of confusion for them during this period. To some it helps them process their grief, they'll start crying and they'll hug the dog and to some children they'll come up sad and they'll walk away happy," said Tim Hetzner of Lutheran Church Charities.
Katherine Zaharik, a Sandy Hook resident, has her own therapy dog. She didn’t hesitate to call on Therapy Dogs International to send more.
“I think that there’s a lot of kids and a lot of parents and just a lot of people in the community -- the police, the ambulance, everybody’s been affected by this and I think everybody can use just a little bit of quiet time and a quiet pet,” said Zaharik.
Luke does a lot of tricks, but what he does do is absorb stress.
“The dogs pick up so much of the stress of the people. It’s just incredible how much stress they pick up so we try to rest them for a few minutes every hour to give them a little break,” said Sister Mary Foley, a New Jersey disaster stress dog owner.
The dogs came in from around the country.
Help is coming in other forms, too. A Portland company sent 26 wreaths, which the fire department mounted in the town center. A North Carolina woman offered to buy 26 trees from the fire department and asked that they be set up and decorated nearby.
Like the therapy dogs, the symbols are helpful for some people who may not want to talk about what they’re going through.
“Sometimes there’s just no words to say…And I think that these dogs just really do their job well,” said Zaharik.
These dogs are specially trained to comfort to other people, when they're suffering or hurting.