As they did after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sandy Hook school shootings and the Charleston church massacre, comfort dogs are headed to the scene of an American tragedy — this time, the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.
About a dozen dogs from seven states were headed to Orlando yesterday to provide comfort and encouragement to the relatives of the dead, surviving victims, their families, first responders and a stunned community.
Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were injured when what authorities are describing as a “home grown extremist” opened fire inside the crowded Pulse nightclub with a semi-automatic weapon.
Lutheran Church Charities, which began its comfort dog program in 2008, said a dozen dogs and 20 volunteers arrived in Orlando yesterday, where they will work with local hospitals and churches.
“They help people relax and calm down,” Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, told ABC News.
“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”
The program has more than 100 dogs in 23 states.
Yesterday, many of them, along with handlers and volunteers, sprang into action.
Gracie, a 5-year-old golden retriever in Davenport, Iowa, who was little more than a pup when she went to the Sandy Hook shootings that killed 26 in Newtown, Connecticut, was aboard a flight to Orlando out of Chicago.
“Her purpose is to share love and compassion with those who are suffering,” Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of Gracie’s handlers, told News 10.
“The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”
Sasha, a 19-month-old golden retriever left Hilton Head Island with her handlers, Brenda and Phil Burden. It was Sasha’s first comfort mission, though the Burdens brought comfort dogs to Oregon last year after a gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College.
The Burdens told the Island Packet they will likely visit with the first responders who are dealing with the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in American history.
Other dogs were responding from Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nebraska and Texas.
While in Orlando, they will be based in Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando.
Travel for the dogs and volunteers is funded by donations.
(Photos: At top, a comfort dog at Sandy Hook, by Allison Joyce / New York Daily News; below, Gracie, a comfort dog from Iowa / Lutheran Church Charities)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 14th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, church, comfort dogs, dog, dogs, families, first responders, florida, golden retrievers, gracie, hospital, lutheran church charities, mass shootings, orlando, pets, pulse, sasha, shootings, survivors, victims
Gracie, one of more than 50 dogs rescued seven years ago from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s dog fighting compound, has died.
The black pit bull spent her final years in an adoptive household in suburban Richmond.
She died Monday morning, according to Amy McCracken, executive director of the Richmond Animal League.
“This morning, little, old, bow-legged Gracie passed away and got her angel wings. Any words we write here could never begin to express the profound, positive and lasting impact that this little, black pit bull had on so many people who encountered her or heard the story of her suffering and triumph,” said a post on the animal’s league’s “Gracie’s Guardians” Facebook page.
“We are and will be forever grateful for this little, broken black dog and everything she personified.”
The dog arrived at the Richmond in 2007 and was adopted by the group’s board president, Sharon Cornett.
“Gracie was very, very friendly,” McCracken told CNN. Gracie had been used as a breeding dog, as opposed to a fighter, in Vick’s operation, she said. “She loved people and was never aggressive to other dogs.”
With her new owner, Gracie attended conferences and meetings about animal welfare and visited schools to show people they have nothing to fear from most pit bulls.
Gracie was one of about 50 pit bulls seized by authorities in April 2007 when Vick, then a quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, was charged with operating an illegal dog-fighting ring, called Bad Newz Kennels, on his Virginia property.
Twenty-two of the dogs were sent for rehabilitation and long-term care at Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, while others went to Bad Rap, a San Francisco pet shelter, and a handful of other shelters and sanctuaries,
Created by the Richmond animal shelter, Gracie’s Guardians is an initiative dedicated to the welfare of pit bulls. The group chose Gracie as their namesake “in tribute to her perseverance and that of countless other pit bulls who have suffered or continue to suffer at the hands of people, yet whose spirits and love for humans remains untarnished.”
(Photo: from the Facebook page of Gracie’s Guardians)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 8th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bad newz, bad rap, best friends, dead, death, died, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, gracie, gracie's guardians, michael vick, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, rehabilitation, rescue, richmond, vick, vick dogs, victory, virginia
When a Labradoodle fell off the side of a 200-foot cliff in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, members of the group she was hiking with all presumed she had died — and held a memorial service right there on the spot.
But Gracie, amazingly, was still alive.
And a rescue team hoisted her to safety.
The dog’s owner, Michelle Simmons, says her Labradoodle was part of a large hiking group. Gracie and another dog were playing on a trail when Gracie went over the side of the cliff.
Her horrified family held a memorial service for the pooch on the cliff.
Afterwards, another hiker heard the dog, contacted authorities, and the Oregon Humane Society sent a 10-person rescue team to the site, on Eagle Creek trail, near Punchbowl Falls.
Bruce Wyse, a member of the team, was lowered down the 200-foot cliff and fitted Gracie with a rescue harness. Team members then hoisted Gracie and Wyse back up the cliff.
She was in fairly good shape, having suffered only bruises and scratches, the Oregonian reported.
The rescue team’s leader., Rene Pizzo, said the incident should be a reminder to other pet owners who hike with their animals to keep their dogs on leashes.
“We strongly urge dog owners to keep their pets on leash all the time in areas such as the Columbia Gorge,” Pizzo said. “Your dog’s leash can save your pet’s life.”
(Photo: Oregon Humane Society)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 8th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alive, animals, cliff, columbia river gorge, dog, dogs, eagle creek trail, fall, gracie, hiking, hiking with dogs, labradoodle, leashes, memorial service, oregon, pets, punchbowl falls, safety, survival, survives
There’s a new animal blogger in town, and she used to be my boss.
Mary Corey, the Baltimore Sun’s features editor has taken over my old Sun blog (“Mutts”), given it a new name (“Unleashed,” not to be confused with the sister paper Los Angeles Times pet and animal blog) and is off and running.
The revamped blog launched last week with a poignant debut entry on the death, two months ago, of Mary’s dog, Gracie.
We’ve added Unleashed to our blogroll, and we wish Mary all the best in her new venture.