Dogs comfort grieving Newtown hearts

2012-12-19 07:05
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

US shooting funerals

A few days after the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School residents of Newtown attended the funeral of two of the twenty children.

Newtown - Lisa Peterson went straight to the dogs - therapy dogs, that is - when she returned home to Newtown from a business trip to Florida upon learning of the Sandy Hook school massacre.

"I saw them and I just had to come over and hug them," Peterson said on Tuesday as she stroked Abbie Einstein and Smartie Jones, two gentle, purebred golden retrievers whose mission in life is to make people feel better.

"There's something about that unconditional love [from dogs] that is just so nurturing," she said. "It takes you in to the moment with the dog - and everything else horrific just melts away."

Nearly 25 000 dogs, and their volunteer owners and handlers, are registered with Therapy Dogs International, a non-profit based in Flanders, New Jersey, that sets standards for canines that "bring joy and comfort to those in need".

Several dogs turned up in Newtown to help residents cope with their grief after Friday's brutal killing of 20 first graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Police say Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother before he went to the school, sprayed bullets in two classrooms with a semi-automatic assault rifle, then turned a pistol on himself.

Ten dogs came to Newtown from far-off Illinois and Indiana via a Lutheran Church Charities "comfort dog" programme that has its origins in the aftermath of the 2008 killing of five students by a gunman at Northern Illinois University.

Abbie and Smartie's owner said his dogs - specially trained to give emotional comfort and healing - usually visit nursing homes and a centre for people with autism.

For several hours, they were the centre of attention at an ever-expanding teddy bear memorial by the town Christmas tree, just down the hill from the ill-starred school.

Locals, visitors, even journalists from the many TV satellite trucks parked nearby, paused to stroke and hug the dogs, aged five and nine. They appeared to relish the attention when they were not peering up at their owner Michael Jones for a treat.

"Their job is to give emotional therapy," Jones, who also owns a border collie and two cats and knows several Newtown inhabitants through the Hudson Valley Golden Retriever Club.

"That's why we're here, and that's what they're doing."

Another golden retriever, Dutchess, projected so much affection that few noticed she had no eyes - they were surgically removed after she contracted pigmentary uveitis, a painful eye disease seen almost exclusively in the breed.

"She does fine. She's a happy dog," said her owner Mark Condon, a biology professor at State University of New York and member of the Good Dog Foundation, another therapy dog network, as Dutchess snuggled up to an AFP reporter.

Dutchess, who turns 10 next month, typically drops in once or twice a week at an autism centre up the Hudson River from New York where she happily mingles with children eager to brush, feed and play ball with her.

In Newtown, on the other hand, many folks responded to Dutchess by simply running their hands over her rich silky coat. "It's been very tactile," Condon observed. "Some people don't even say anything - which is fine."

In another part of town, Ken Whalen of Smithfield, Rhode Island, went directly to Hawley Elementary School with his 7-year-old golden retriever Cooper to comfort kids on Newtown's first day of school after the tragedy.

"I've been taking him to nursing homes since he was probably a year old," Whalen said. "He has a lot of experience like that... I just hope he makes people happy, puts a smile on them."

Read more on:    us  |  animals  |  us school shooting  |  gun control
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
5 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Madonsela to probe ANC food-for-votes claims

Public protector Thuli Madonsela has launched an investigation into whether the ANC has used state resources for its electoral campaign, says a report.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9 has a beautiful one-piece, unibody design where...

From R2899.85

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.