Four fluffy golden retrievers visited DePaul Tuesday, but they weren’t your average neighborhood pooch – and not just because they came with their own business cards.
Instead, these dogs were certified K-9 Comfort Dogs with Lutheran Church Charities, which interact with people in churches, schools, hospitals and at disaster sites. Tuesday’s Canines on Campus event, organized by DePaul Activities Board, attracted a slew of stressed students looking for a cuddly, calming moment with a dog.
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, two of the dogs – Luther and Ruthie – provided comfort to children at Newtown High School. When community members saw the calming effect of the canines, they were invited to the school’s first day open after the tragedy, said Richard Martin of Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Ministries.
“The dogs allow people in their time to process and to grieve,” said Martin, who went to Sandy Hook. “We had kids who didn’t talk for weeks, and after three or four weeks of being with Ruthie or Luther, slowly started to open up.”
Some also rushed on-site to help following the shooting at Northern Illinois University and the Boston Marathon bombing.
“It was surreal just to see the impact of dogs on people,” he said. “The dogs are safe. They aren’t an individual or a counselor in your face, asking questions you don’t have answers to.”
Photos by Geoff Stellfox / The DePaulia