The Boston Marathon kicked off yesterday, with 36,000 runners taking the same route — from Hopkinton, MA to Boylston, MA — where bombs killed three people and injured another 264 last year on April 15. An unlikely troupe showed up to console runners and supporters near the finish line. The four-legged bunch, golden retrievers Luther, Ruthie, Hannah, and Rufus, are comfort dogs.
Luther, Ruthie, Hannah, and Rufus are well-versed in tragedy. The golden retrievers comforted victims’ families last year shortly after the bombings. “Comfort dogs visited Joplin, Mo., after the deadly tornado of 2011, the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Oklahoma after the tornadoes of May 2013,” The Los Angeles Times adds. “Luther and Ruthie spent five weeks in Connecticut following the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary [School].”
Today’s Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry had humble beginnings. Charitable donations funded a modestly-sized comfort ministry of just four dogs in 2008. Now there are 70 LLC K-9 Comfort Dogs ready to travel all across the U.S. Tim Hetzner, president of LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, explains the project to Yahoo News, “Dogs just bring a wonderful comfort. They’re a calming presence and allow victims to open up and talk about what happened — which is a critical part of the healing process.” The dogs comforted visitors at First Lutheran Church of Boston on Monday — and several days prior to the race. The dogs paid special visits to hospitals and first responders at last year’s bombing.
“Anyone that has a heart for other people, who wants to volunteer and loves dogs, should consider turning their dog into a therapy dog,” explains Vince Reina, CEO of Southland Dog Training, Inc. “One of the things that we’ve used in our ads is that ‘the best medicine always wags its tail.’ That is pretty much what therapy dogs can be. They’ve been known to bring down blood pressure, and help people who are going through chemo or other procedures to make a faster recovery. It’s amazing what that kind of animal contact can do for people who are not well.”