After hearing about the Orlando shooting that claimed 49 lives, one ministry of the Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) rounded up a gang of furry, fluffy members to help. The LLC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry sends trained comfort dogs around the country to help with the healing process, and 12 of their canines arrived in Orlando earlier this week.

LLC President Tom Hetzner said the ministry tries to respond 24 hours after they are invited. After putting out a call, 12 dogs from seven states across America were dispatched to Orlando. The first 11 arrived on Monday, and the final dog arrived on Tuesday.

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Right away the dogs started providing comfort. In the airport, they brought smiles as people paused to see them. The dogs were present at a vigil attended by more than 7,000 people, and LLC estimates they’ve interacted with hundreds of people so far, from first responders to Pulse staff to the victims’ families. Hetzner said the dogs will be there to help the entire community as they work through the ordeal.

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He said when people interact with the dogs, their blood pressure lowers and they’re able to relax and get to a space where they feel comfortable opening up about their experience. Hetzner told The Dodo, “Some people just want to lay on the ground with them and talk. The dogs are like a bridge for people to talk about what’s bothering them. The dogs are confidential, they’re good listeners, and they’re nonjudgmental. And talking about things is one of the most important ways to heal.”

The dogs will stay in Orlando for at least a week, and will stay longer if they need to. If you’d like to help, you can donate to the LLC K-9 Comfort Dog Fund.

Via My Modern Met and The Dodo

Images via Ruthie Comfort Dog’s Facebook