Comfort Dogs Bring Comfort and Healing to the Grieving in Boston and Texas

K-9 Comfort Dogs Ruthie and Luther, along with team members Rich and Dona Martin, visit with Lee Ann Yanni, a survivor of the bombings in Boston, just before she underwent surgery to repair her shattered leg.

After ministering to those shaken by the bombings along the route of the Boston Marathon, specially trained therapy dogs have been deployed to help those struggling to recover from the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.

The dogs and their handlers are members of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog team that is headquartered just outside of Chicago. In Boston and in Texas, these Golden Retrievers and their handlers have come alongside victims, families, first responders, medical personnel, public works employees, school children and just folks on the streets who are in need of some unconditional love, non-judgmental ears, and what Tim Hetzner, President of the LCC calls, “furry counseling.”

Tim Hetzner, President of Lutheran Church Charities. Photo provided by LCC.
Tim Hetzner, President of Lutheran Church Charities

In Episode 24 of my program, On the Road with Mac and Molly on Pet Life Radio, I speak with Tim Hetzner, who is leading the team in West, Texas and who was also with the team deployed to Boston. Tim shares stories from the ministry in these cities and recounts how the dogs have been able to break through to help people move toward healing. Often, individuals will begin by petting the dogs and hugging them. Then the tears and the worry-filled and pain-filled words follow.

Luther and Ruthie, bags packed, ready to deploy
Luther and Ruthie, bags packed, ready to deploy

While in Boston, the team spent time working at the First Lutheran Church that sits very near the finish line of the Marathon. The Wednesday Night Runners’ Club of Boston, most of whom were marathoners from Monday’s race, were among those who came by to talk through the events of the week and to work through their thoughts and feelings together as a group with the K-9 Comfort Dogs. Wherever the team went they helped provide a respite area, a place to step away from the fear and sadness to work through the healing process individually or in groups.

Bringing comfort

Home base for the team in Texas is Waco’s St. Paul Lutheran Church but a good bit of the ministry has been done in the local schools and with university students shaken to the core by the disaster.

Each of the dogs in the program, including those deployed to Boston and Texas, has its own Facebook page. Home page for the program is:

For more information on the Comfort Dogs visit:

Listen to my interview with Tim Hetzner on Pet Life Radio’s On the Road with Mac and Molly at:

All photos provided by Lutheran Church Charities.

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