University of Colorado Boulder student Ashley Schoenbauer walked down the long Boulder King Soopers memorial on Friday to pay her respects and came across a golden retriever wearing a vest that read, “Please pet me.”
It was a dose of comfort in a week that commodity had been in very short supply, for many in Boulder and along the Front Range.
Following the mass shooting which claimed 10 lives at the Table Mesa grocery store on Monday, multiple organizations, some flying across the nation, have come to Boulder to help the local community with the unique solace provided by emotional support dogs.
Redeemer Lutheran Church of Fort Collins is part of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, and has shown its support this week with its two golden retrievers, Cubby and Devorah.
The nationwide program, launched in 2008, aspires to “Bring the mercy, compassion, presence, and proclamation of Jesus Christ to those suffering and in need,” said Bonnie Fear, who described herself as “the top dog” for Cubby, and the LCC K-9 crisis response coordinator.
The comfort dogs typically visit schools, hospitals, senior living facilities and deploy to locations facing crises, Fear said.
The comfort dogs have received lots of training to provide emotional support to those who need it. The dogs know 40 commands, and some are trained to reach up to a hospital bed or put their front paws on someone’s lap if they are in a wheelchair, Jody Lockwood, “top dog” for Devorah, explained.
“Everything is about letting people pet them, hug them and get some comfort from them,” she said.
Cubby and Devorah have made multiple visits to the King Soopers memorial and the Boulder Police Department memorial this week. The team also plans to visit the Boulder County Coroner’s Office and the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, Lockwood said.
“We’ve seen a lot of people kneel down to pet the dog and just start crying and releasing all that pent-up pain and sorrow which we won’t do with humans,” Fear said.
“That’s what these dogs do, and we feel that people need to do that to start the healing process; they need to release the pain, the emotion and then hopefully start to move on.”
In addition to Redeemer Lutheran Church’s two dogs, four golden retrievers from Nebraska, also part of LCC, were seen at the King Soopers memorial on Friday, receiving and giving lots of love to the public.
Four more golden retrievers from an LCC branch in Wisconsin will be flown in on Monday to support Boulder residents, Lockwood said.
“Sometimes you’re not ready to talk to somebody about what you’re feeling. And to have a source of comfort that you don’t have to say anything to, you don’t have to tell them anything, can be really helpful,” Schoenbauer said.
“We just let that golden fur catch tears,” said Lockwood.
To learn more about the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, or to request a visit by a comfort dog, go to tinyurl.com/sukrn5a6.
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