Furry Counselors: Dogs Head to Boston to Comfort Community

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The furry dog counselors who have been helping Newtown victims are now helping the Boston community, providing comfort, cuddles and licks to all who visit them.

A group of specially-trained golden retrievers have been sent out by the Lutheran Church Charities in Addison, Ill. to stay at a First Lutheran Church near the finish line of Monday's marathon.

Two of the retrievers have been helping students and parents at Sandy Hook Elementary School every day since December.

"People talk to the dogs - they're like furry counselors," Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, said. "It's a chance to help bring some relief to people that are shaken up because of the bombings."

Hetzner said some children who heard the bombings are having nightmares, and he hopes the dogs will help them.

"When people pet a dog they actually relax, and when they relax they're more susceptible to share what their emotions are and what feelings they've gone through," Hetzner said. "Part of that sharing what their feelings and what they're thinking is part of the healing process. The dogs help you do that because they don't talk back."

One woman who stopped by, Joa Stenning, said, "It's just been a really awful week aside from the tragedy."

Her coworker Julie-Anne Whitney added, "And dogs make it better."

All dogs are trained to deal with stressful situations, going through eight months to a year of service training starting when they are six weeks old.

Those who visit the dogs and feel a connection with them can keep in touch with them on Facebook, as all of them have a page.

"People always keep in contact with the dogs," Hetzner said.

The program consists of 67 dogs across several different states. It started in 2008 after five students were killed at a shooting in Northern Illinois University.

Sources: Mercury News, Today