As rescuers continue their frantic search for survivors in Oklahoma, several golden retrievers -- including two from the tornado-ravaged community of Joplin, Mo., -- will help begin the healing process.
Lutheran Church Charities President Tim Hetzner this afternoon saw off a group of four dogs and five handlers belonging to the Addison-based organization's K9 Comfort Dogs Ministry, which aims to be a calming influence in the wake of disaster.
"We hope to bring mercy and comfort and help people process through their time of loss and tragedy," Hetzner said.
Their van plans to stop in Bloomington to pick up two more dogs and handlers before continuing on to Moore, Okla. They'll meet up with two other golden retrievers that were permanently placed in Joplin after an even more devastating EF5-category tornado killed more than 160 people in 2011.
Most of the dogs, including Ruthie and Barnabas, traveled to Newtown, Conn. after the Sandy Hook Elementary School school shootings and, most recently, to Boston after the marathon bombings.
Hetzner said the group plans to stay through the week.
"We try to be on the road within 24 hours, but only if we're invited," Hetzner said. "We just try to help people who've experienced loss and tragedy."
Their first stop will be to a local children's hospital. Most other visits are arranged through Lutheran churches in the Oklahoma City area, Hetzner said.
For more information, visit lutheranchurchcharities.org.