The program was born out of a number of tragedies. After Hurricane Katrina, we witnessed the attachment people had to their animals and how they wouldn’t let them go even if it put their own life in danger. I realised the strong impact animals have on healing people in times of tragedy. Petting a dog, which shows unconditional love, calms you down and actually lowers your blood pressure
. This is one of the most remarkable ways of touching people following disasters.
All of our dogs are golden retrievers; they are very loving and people accept them more easily than other types of dogs. We train them to ensure they can fly in airplanes, stay calm around noise and in disaster areas. They must also be able relate to all age groups and all handlers
A runners' group stops by the First Lutheran Church of Boston to visit the therapy dogs.
After a tragic event, I’ve noticed people often first open up and talk with the dog about what happened - before talking to other people. They’re really big furry counsellors: they have a sixth sense of empathy and can sense sorrow. Playing with a dog also gives people a much-needed moment of diversion.
We can’t keep track of how many people have been affected by the dogs, but in Boston, we are talking thousands. When I was out with some of the dogs on a hospital visit Thursday, a woman who had just undergone surgery on her leg got out of her bed and took her first step in order to play with one of the dogs. Today, we’re going to visit a husband and wife who have both had their legs amputated. I hope our visit will help relieve their suffering, too.