These Dogs Were Deployed To Uvalde To Comfort Children Through Their Trauma & Grief

“They were hugging and smiling and even talking to the dog.”

The people of Uvalde, Texas have been through an unimaginable tragedy in the past week. After a lone gunman walked into Robb Elementary School and killed 21 people, 19 of whom were children, it is no surprise that the community is in desperate need of support. And comfort. Particularly children who’ve been left traumatized. Who better to provide comfort than service dogs, deployed to Uvalde by LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs to soothe survivors in the aftermath of the school shooting.

Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) has deployed two teams of service dogs to Uvalde. The dogs were sent to spend time comforting families, friends, and other community members, arriving in two shifts to give the first wave of dogs time to rest and recover from the emotional turmoil they so empathetically worked to soothe. LCC President and CEO Tim Hetzner tells Romper that the service dogs are trained from the time they are 8 weeks old until they are 18 to 24 months old for over 2,000 hours to become comfort dogs.

“Training includes teaching dogs the commands of handlers, respecting the private space of individuals (such as those who are hospitalized), and to be receptive to touch and affection from children and adults they are unfamiliar with,” Hetzner explained via email.

The dogs have been spending time with the people of Uvalde, and it’s clear even from the photos shared on Facebook that they are amazing at what they do.

A young child in Uvalde was comforted by a service dog.LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs/Facebook

These comfort dogs work especially well when dealing with children. “Particularly with children, they have a very hard time processing the trauma and grief associated with mass shootings, especially if they lose their classmates. It often takes them days to speak about it,” an LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs spokesperson tells Romper.

“The unconditional love and comfort of an LCC K-9 Comfort Dog gives children, as well as their parents or other adults, the opportunity feel the softness of their fur and the warmth of friendship received from a Comfort Dog who willingly listens without judgement,” the spokesperson adds.

A young girl visits with a comfort dog in Uvalde.LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs/Facebook

Bonnie Fear, a comfort dog handler who was on the scene, tells Romper, “You could tell a lot of the kids weren’t ready to talk yet. They would walk up to a dog pretty sad and confused. But by the end they were hugging and smiling and even talking to the dog.”

Kids in Uvalde, Texas found great comfort in visiting with service dogs.LLC K-9 Comfort Dogs/Facebook

This isn’t the first time LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs have been sent to help after a mass shooting. In 2017, the dogs were sent to Las Vegas after a gunman shot into a crowd of 22,000 people at a concert, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more. They visited exhausted support workers at Sunrise Memorial Hospital and the coroner’s office at the time, giving them comfort when they needed it most.

A spokesperson for the organization tells Romper that they’ve seen a marked increase in requests for visits, and during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 they conducted their visits virtually via Zoom. Teachers and students often had Zoom visits with the dogs, trying to decompress from all of the added stress of online learning.

Therapy dogs have been proven to help the people they visit by lowering their blood pressure, increasing levels of endorphins, and reducing anxiety. Everyone needs a comfort dog right now, most especially the people of Uvalde, Texas.