Comfort Dogs bring compassion to those facing tragedy

HOUSTON – For more than a decade ‘Comfort Dogs’ have quietly brought compassion and grace to some of our country’s worst tragedies. The animals are trained and deployed by Lutheran Church Charities.

“They touch people because they show unconditional love, they’re non-judgmental, they don’t take notes,” said LCC President and CEO, Tim Hetzner.

He said the idea for ‘Comfort Dogs’ was born out of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

“We were invited by FEMA to come in and do search-and-rescue with people and their animals because FEMA couldn’t rescue animals at that time,” said Hetzner. “We found the healing power of an animal with somebody who is in a crisis was very beneficial.”

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For more than a decade ‘Comfort Dogs’ have quietly brought compassion and grace to some of our country’s worst tragedies. The animals are trained and deployed by Lutheran Church Charities.

LCC’s Comfort Dog Ministry began in 2008 with four dogs. Since then, the ministry blossomed to 130 dogs in 26 states. The group only brings in Golden Retrievers and training starts at eight weeks old. Hetzner said it takes two years and 2,000 hours of work to train a comfort dog.

“They’re trained not to bark, not to bite, to be calm,” said Hetzner.

All of the animals are given Biblical names and a Bible verse. Comfort Dogs have been deployed to disasters like Hurricane Harvey as well as mass shootings in El Paso, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, Midland/Odessa and Santa Fe. Hetzner said LCC only deploys Comfort Dogs when invited and never charges for the service.