Therapy Dogs Comfort Boulder Shooting Survivors: How Therapy Dogs Can Help PTSD 

Recently an unimaginable tragedy struck a community that was otherwise rated as an overall safe place to live. A mass shooting occurred on Monday, March 22, 2021, at a King Sooper’s grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. Ten lives were lost, and a community is aching as they face the post-trauma. Therapy dogs Cubby and Devorah from the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dog Ministry of Fort Collins have been comforting survivors and mourners who have come to visit the store. 

Mourners have come to face the grief together with memorials, photos, and other memorabilia. These two adorable Golden Retriever dogs and their handlers have been there for support at the memorial outside the store where the incident took place. A hug from these dogs is a moment of solace when facing overwhelming emotions and grief. 

Molly Hendrickson from The Denver Channel first reported about these two dogs and their dedicated volunteer handlers. Jody Lockwood told her, "There’s something about them that just calms people, comforts them, and allows them to either cry silently or start to tell their story.” 

Therapy dogs make great companions and have reassuring results. Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field. Dogs, horses, and other animals are used to help people cope and recover from mental health disorders, diseases, and cancers. They are healing companions, and are found giving their companionship in mental health facilities, prisons, hospitals, schools, and even dental offices. 

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@rstone_design?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Ryan Stone</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/therapy-dog?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

Studies have proven the health benefits of therapy dogs

Therapy dogs offer a shoulder to lean on. Their presence offers a calming effect, and they have helped many tragedies in recent years like the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. Therapy dogs were introduced as some of the first responders to help cope with the loss of the 32 victims. 

The aftermath of a horrible incident is never easy. Everyone responds to trauma differently, and the dogs offer quiet, but loving empathy. Therapy dogs are healers and can reduce pain and anxieties. They often leave those mourning or suffering with a smile - even in an intense, dark moment.     

As pet owners know, being with your dog feels good. When feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed out, dogs are comforting to pet and just be peaceful with. Giving affection to dogs can give you a boost of good hormones like serotonin, giving a moment of relief when faced with overwhelming emotions. 

They can even improve physical health too by lowering blood pressure, helping people relax, and slowing down breathing. Researchers found that 12 minutes with a therapy dog can help heart and lung function by lowering pressures, diminishing relief of harmful hormones, and decreasing anxiety. 

The healing powers of dog therapy is a positive and homeopathic solution to coping with heavy occurrences. The beautiful part of using a therapy dog is that the dogs also enjoy it. I guess that is why they call dogs man’s best friend. We are so lucky to have these wonderful and loyal creatures.