It's a fairly common saying, "Dogs are man's best friend," and for a good reason. They boost us when we're down, are there for us when we're not, and love us unconditionally. Dogs help anyone in any situation and are always happy to do it.
Therapy dogs do exceptional work that is rarely seen by the public. These soft embodiments of goodness help people in even the most disastrous of situations. As we all know, crisis strikes, and when it does, we have teams of police, firefighters, and paramedics to help stop further destruction. However, the people in these crises, are affected as well, beyond anything physical. Many are left traumatized, grieving, and heartbroken, some with PTSD.
That's where therapy dogs step in.
Research shows that when victims are exposed to therapy dogs after these stressful events, they can decrease the negative effects they feel. Therapy dogs help these victims process and get past the walls they may build after experiencing such events.
In particular, they are exceptionally helpful for children, who have a much harder time processing all the mental stresses that can come with this experience. They feel less anxiety and stress and are more open to therapy. Some people simply feel more comfortable interacting with dogs.
Therapy dogs' services have been provided to victims of several tragedies, even as recently as the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. There, a team of individuals who call themselves 'Crisis Response Canines' did what they have done for a number of shootings throughout recent history. They deployed their fluffy team of wagging tails to comfort victims at a vigil after the shooting. Other groups did similarly, like the Crisis Animal Response team, who provided dogs to sit with, to pet, and to just be there for victims. These therapy dogs offered their help, no questions asked. As well as them, the Lutheran Church Charities deployed teams of Golden Retrievers to the children affected.
Another instance of these therapy dogs coming to help in the event of a tragedy is with the Love Dog Adventures out of Las Vegas. They sent their dogs to victims there after the Las Vegas shooting. Love Dog took their dogs to as many people as possible, providing some light in these people's dark tunnels. They traveled everywhere, to the emergency response teams that arrived to help victims, from hospital to hospital, seeing victims and families of victims, and to churches and schools. Victims spoke of the inescapable reporters and heard sirens in the background of their daily lives. But dogs completely changed things for them; they reduced tensions, made people feel at ease for once, and helped the victims of the tragedy get through it.
Therapy dogs also helped in Orlando, Florida, after the LGBT-targeted mass shooting at Pulse nightclub. The same team that responded in Uvalde, Crisis Response Canines, was there to help those victims then as well. In this visit, they were asked to provide particular comfort to first responders. Paramedics, police officers, and firefighters, even the most reserved, interact with these dogs, feel more comfortable opening up, and feel less stress during the process of healing as well - it's not just victims.
A reminder that while the healing of these victims is a fantastic sight to see, the health and happiness of animals should be a societal priority. But not to fear, research demonstrates that these dogs are happier than household pets. They love interacting with people, and people love interacting with them. Dogs enjoy helping us, and that makes it even more important to treat them right.
Therapy dogs offer an invaluable resource in responding to shootings, terror attacks, and other tragedies. These are sadly inescapable, but we can control how victims are treated. Providing these teams of dogs improves victims' lives, and events become easier to process and talk about. Not only that, but dogs get to be happier too. Therapy dogs are a win-win in every way.