A bombing survivor is visited by therapy dogs before she goes in for surgery. All photos courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities.
The very same therapy dogs that comforted grieving friends and family following December’s Newtown school shootings arrived in Boston earlier this week. With hundreds injured and many undergoing amputations following the marathon bombings, the K-9 Comfort Dogs help provide affection and emotional release.
The organisation works with 67 specially trained dogs in seven US states. They usually work in churches and schools, but are ready to be deployed in crisis situations. The dogs have comforted victims after Hurricane Sandy, the Joplin tornado tragedy and Hurricane Katrina. In Boston, they are visiting hospitals and attending memorial services.
They are currently stationed at a Lutheran church just a few blocks away from the marathon’s finishing line, where the bombs exploded. The community is invited to stop by and see them. They are also visiting hospitals and memorial services.
These trained dogs are part of the K-9 Comfort Dogs team.

“A woman who had just undergone surgery on her leg got out her bed and took her first step in order to play with one of the dogs”

Tim Hetzner is president of Lutheran Church Charities. He lives in Chicago, but is currently in Boston with five therapy dogs. He started K-9 Comfort Dogs in August 2008.
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.