Words describing the horror and disbelief we experienced in the aftermath of the October 1 mass shooting. It is impossible to add more words to the shock, pain, and grief experienced by so many people – no one is left untouched by a tragedy of this magnitude. However, out of this terrible tragedy emerged words that are providing a source of strength for people as they deal with their grief, loss, and pain – #Vegas Strong. Strength lies in unity and community, a coming together in our grief and pain. The Las Vegas Healing Garden and Remembrance Wall offers a place of peace and healing and is a tribute to the strength of our community.
Another source of strength and healing came from a group of responders lovingly referred to as “second responders” – comfort or therapy dogs. Their services were needed to help bring comfort and solace for the victims and their family and friends, first responders, hospital staff, dispatchers, and others. We reached out to three groups to share some of their experiences or reflections to help us gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for their work.
Love Dog Adventures
Our Love Dogs are deploying therapy teams to wherever the need is greatest at this time of great sorrow in our city. No one can explain the horror of this but we know that having the animals there is helpful. And we feel honored to have been a part of the effort. The comfort of a therapy animal is all we have to offer but we know it will make a difference to all we touch. We know that this is not a one-day need and we plan to be available for as long as we are needed. We spent time in hospitals with the families of the victims, police officers and first responders, as well as churches, schools and more of the like. Nothing is “normal” now so every visit is a challenge and we appreciate the great effort by our teams as they help to heal our community. I want to thank all of our remarkable volunteers at both ends of the leash for all they do each and every day…
Love Dog Adventures
Sue Grundfest, Founder and President
Rick Pollock (Las Vegas), handler for LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Lois
Everywhere they go in the halls of Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, therapy dogs are helping to heal the wounds you can’t see. Dogs don’t worry about what to say – they offer themselves completely without reservation to people in their sorrow, grief and pain. I’ve noticed that people just gravitate to the dogs – they either sit or lay with the dogs, talk or cry, and healing begins. It is a ministry of presence.
LLC K-9 Comfort Dogs is a network of teams of dogs from all over the U.S. who are ready to respond to disasters. The first week 21 dogs from 8 states arrived to assist Las Vegas. Other teams followed and more will be available if needed. Volunteers who in a moment’s notice are willing to give up their lives for a week to make a difference in the lives of people who are hurting; to offer hope & healing.
First Good Shepherd Lutheran Church – Las Vegas • www.fgsls.org/comfort-dog
National Network: LCCK-9 Comfort Dogs • www.lutheranchurchcharities.org
Michael’s Angel Paws
Michael’s Angel Paws shared quotes from their team members to offer a glimpse of what the experience is for the handlers.
Stephanie Gerken, Director – We all cried that morning knowing our City had changed but our therapy dogs came out to remind all of us we are here to help. You can cry, scream, and hug us but let my soft fur offer you a smile to take the pain away for just a few seconds. We can’t thank enough all of the therapy dog teams for how they helped everyone in our community.
Denise Kramer – Cole & Cheyenne – I never knew just how helpful a Therapy Dog could be in a time of need until my 2 year old Vizsla Cheyenne went to work for her first time since becoming certified. Cheyenne’s naturally sweet and caring disposition complimented by her soft velvety ears absorbed the sadness and sorrow from women, men and children while licking away their tears. The days that we helped others at the Las Vegas Convention Center as well as at a funeral for one of the beloved victims…Cheyenne was “my” hero and inspiration.
Amy Flood & Daizy – The best part about having a Therapy Dog is watching peoples’ stress and sadness just melt away when they are with her. What surprised me after the shooting was how therapeutic it was for ME to watch her help so many people who were affected. It is truly a privilege to be involved with such a healing program!
Carol Martin & Daisy – Daisy cuddled and hugged the children at Davis Funeral Home, licking the tears from a few little boys’ faces.
Michael Halpern & Zoey – My pup Zoey and I spent a few hours at the Mandalay Bay Call Center. The stress level was high, but as operators got off a call and got a furry smiley lapful, the changes in their faces were amazing.
Michael’s Angel Paws • Stephanie Gerken, Director • www.michaelsangelpaws.org