Monday, June 20, 2016

Comfort Dogs Once Again Come To The Rescue, This Time In Orlando

A K-9 Comfort Dog consoles a woman in
Orlando last week after The Pulse nightclub shooting. 
Sometimes, humans are incredibly cruel to other people.

Like that evil Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and injured dozens more in The Pulse nightclub in Orlando a little more than a week ago.

Of course, many humans are incredibly kind, which explains the outpouring of support for Orlando.

Some of those kind people are with K-9 Comfort Dogs, sponsored by Lutheran Church Charities,  a group that trains golden retrievers to be therapy dogs.

The dogs go to places that are in crisis or had a disaster - like Orlando - where they help comfort people traumatized by the events.  Dogs always seem to be a light in an otherwise dark tunnel.

Unlike humans, dogs are almost always willing to lend a hand - make that a paw - when people need help.

Tim Hetzner of K-9 Comfort Dogs sent 12 golden retrievers along with 20 human volunteer dog handlers to Orlando, says CBS News. quoting Hetzner:

"With a golden, you don't feel alone, and you know that you're loved.....That helps people at the time to cope and to talk, and to see that there's hope. There's light."

Any breed of dog would help in a crisis like Orlando's of course, but golden retrievers are very good picks for this type of work.

The K-9 Comfort Dogs start a training program that lasts more than a year, starting whe their just eight weeks old. They learn to work with people with disabilities, get through airports, airplanes and escalators, and to manage their own temperaments in distressing situations.

While on the job, the comfort dogs will only work two hours at a time, then decompress during a play break by fetching balls orby taking a nap.  You don't want to overtax these dogs, who are only trying to help.

If what the comfort dogs are doing in Orlando sounds familiar, it should. The same organization went to Newtown, Connecticut when elementary school kids were slaughtered by a crazed gunman, traumatizing the town - and the nation.

According to National Geographic, petting a dog decreases levels of stress hormones and lowers blood pressure. Research suggests petting a dog releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding in affection, in both dogs and humans.

As many of us with dogs as companions know, they seem to have empathy. One study cited by National Geographic put dogs in a room with a couple of people. One person just sort of hummed to himself, the other pretended to cry.

The dogs always ran up to the person crying and nuzzled him or her.

Here's another good thing about comfort dogs and dogs in general: We seem to be an era of xenophobic politicians (Hi, Donald!)  These so called leader want to reject anyone they perceive as "other." So let's get rid of the Muslims, the Mexicans, the gays, or whoever else you want to target!

Dogs aren't like that.

Says National Geographic, citing Brian Hare, director of Duke University's Canine Cognition Center.  

"We've done research on this, and we've found is that not only are most dogs totally not xenophobic, they're actually xenophillic - they love strangers," Hare said. "Thats one way in which you could say dogs are 'better than people. We're not always that welcoming."

People often give obedience training to dogs. Maybe it's time the dogs start training us humans.

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