Suburban Comfort Dogs head to Boston
The golden retrievers hadn't even boarded the plane to Boston yet, and already requests were pouring in for visits from the K9 Comfort Dogs Ministry.
One came from parents whose children saw the chaos of the marathon bombings firsthand and couldn't shake their nightmares.
Another came from a woman who escaped one of the twin towers during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and moved to Boston to feel safer.
The list is sure to grow, according to Lutheran Church Charities President Tim Hetzner, who said the dogs will try to be a calming influence in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.
"Dogs make people feel safe and help them process what they're going through," Hetzner said. "They're wonderful listeners and keep what you say confidential. I call them our furry counselors."
The Addison-based organization Tuesday night planned to fly out Luther, Ruthie and a 6-month-old puppy named Isaiah, along with handlers from Barrington, Palatine and Rolling Meadows. There, they'll meet up with Maggie and Addie, who have been in Newtown, Conn., for the past few months to help the devastated community heal.
Hetzner said the dogs interact with people who invite them over, be it at churches, schools, hospitals or on the streets. First Lutheran Church, affiliated with the organization, is just a few blocks away from the Boston Marathon finish line.
"The pastor (the Rev. Ingo Dutzmann) asked if we would come to serve those in the community and those affected by the bombings," Hetzner said. "We'll be right in the heart of it."
All five of the dogs have spent time in Newtown bringing comfort to people affected by the Sandy Hook shootings. Hetzner said many children began talking about the tragedy by opening up to a comfort dog.
The group plans to return Sunday, but Hetzner said some dogs may stay behind if needed.
For more information, visit k9comfort.org.