Instances of Therapy Dogs Providing Comfort After Tragedies

Jared Wickerham / Getty
Jared Wickerham / Getty

One of the most remarkable things about the recent Boston bombings was how kind people were during the crisis—but gentle words and hugs aren’t always enough to comfort the victims of this kind of disaster. That’s why the folks of K9 Parish Comfort Dogs and other organizations have brought their canine friends to help those who could use some unconditional love right now.

You can read more about the project and the dogs involved, as well as see more adorable pictures of the pups providing their service, over at BuzzFeed.

But this certainly isn’t the first time dogs have helped disaster victims deal with their traumatic experiences. K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs also visited the young survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Two of the dogs even stayed behind with the kids at the school, although they both visited Boston with the Parish’s other dogs this week since Sandy Hook Elementary was on Spring Break.


John Moore / Getty

Perhaps because many of the victims of the Newtown shooting were so young, the event attracted more therapy dogs than practically any other disaster. Therapy dogs were also present at the streetside memorial held for the shooting victims, which made the services easier for the children who knew the victims. In fact, during the service itself, attendees of all ages were given plush toy dogs to cuddle and squeeze during the emotional event.

Dogs were also brought in at the memorial for the Virginia Tech shooting in April of 2007. In this case, the dogs were provided with the help of Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response, who was specifically requested by the Red Cross. Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response was one of the many groups to provide therapy dogs to help survivors and emergency workers in the aftermath of 9/11.


Deb, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Dogs also aided New York residents who were affected by the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) sent comfort dogs, like Ladle, to aid the preschoolers of St. Peter's Lutheran School, Brooklyn, N.Y.

While the deaths might not have all occurred at once, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars took the lives of thousands of soldiers. To help 500 children and teen survivors of these veterans deal with their grief, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors put together a 'Good Grief Camp' that, along with counseling and other services, provided therapy dogs to aid in the healing process.

While combat dogs may get more attention, the U.S. military also employs therapy dogs. Zeke here is a five year old labrador retriever who has a rank of Sergeant First Class for his services at the combat stress clinic on the Kandahar military base in southern Afghanistan. The government therapy dog program started in 2007 to help those serving in Iraq receive the psychological benefits that only animals can provide.

Therapy dogs can even help crime victims better cope with their trauma so they can testify more easily. That’s why Abby works right beside her owner Sandy Sylvester, a prosecutor at the Prince William County Courthouse in Virginia.


Deb, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Eager to support these efforts? Well, if you’re in the Boston area and have a kind, well-behaved dog, you can always get him or her certified and bring your own pooch to comfort the survivors. But everyone else can help by donating to the K9 Parish Comfort Dog’s Boston travel expense fund or to HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response.

Cat That Went Missing In Portland, Oregon Shows Up in Santa Fe, New Mexico—Five Years Later

Oleksandr Shchus/iStock via Getty Images
Oleksandr Shchus/iStock via Getty Images

A few weeks ago, 31-year-old medical student Viktor Usov answered a call from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter claiming to have found his cat, Sasha, who had wandered off five years ago—and 1300 miles away from New Mexico.

Usov, who lives in Portland, Oregon, first thought it was surely a different cat. But his name was listed on the microchip, and the shelter workers described a black, long-haired, friendly feline that sounded exactly like Sasha.

According to OregonLive.com, after Usov adopted the cat from the Oregon Humane Society six years ago, his tender loving care (and his mother’s acupuncture treatments) helped cure Sasha’s distended stomach and chronically runny nose. Sasha soon became affable and spirited, even forming a friendship with Usov’s labradoodle puppy, Tara.

A year later, when Sasha disappeared during a walk, Usov assumed the worst.

“We waited a week or so, but when we didn’t get a call from the Humane Society and no one returned him, we figured a coyote got him,” Usov told OregonLive.com. “We were upset but we moved on.”

Not only did Sasha evade every coyote from Portland to Santa Fe, he also somehow managed to stay well-fed and healthy during his epic journey south.

“How [he] managed to survive to get here is the million-dollar question,” Santa Fe Animal Shelter spokesperson Murad Kirdar told the Santa Fe Reporter. “I can tell you [he] hasn’t missed a meal.”

While Kirdar thinks Sasha might have hitched rides on U-Hauls, trains, and/or cars, Usov imagines that his beloved pet embarked on a spectacular sightseeing tour of the West.

“He went on a grand American adventure,” he told KGW. “He stopped by the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake; he saw the monuments, all the national parks, definitely Redwood Forest.”

Sasha might be more adventurous than most house cats, but he’s far from the only one who has turned up years later and miles away—find out the incredible lost-and-found stories of Alfie, Crockett, and seven other cats here.

[h/t OregonLive.com]

Maine Man Catches a Rare Cotton Candy Lobster—For the Second Time

RnDmS/iStock via Getty Images
RnDmS/iStock via Getty Images

Just three months after a cotton candy lobster was caught off the coast of Maine, another Maine resident has reeled in one of the rare, colorful creatures.

Kim Hartley told WMTW that her husband caught the cotton candy lobster off Cape Rosier in Penobscot Bay—and it’s not his first time. Four years ago, he caught another one, which he donated to an aquarium in Connecticut. While the Hartleys decide what to do with their pretty new foster pet, it’s relaxing in a crate on land.

Though the chances of finding a cotton candy lobster are supposedly one in 100 million, Maine seems to be crawling with the polychromatic crustaceans. Lucky the lobster gained quite a cult following on social media after being caught near Canada’s Grand Manan Island (close to the Canada-Maine border) last summer, and Portland restaurant Scales came across one during the same season. You can see a video of the discovery in Maine from last August below:

According to National Geographic, these lobsters’ cotton candy-colored shells could be the result of a genetic mutation, or they could be related to what they’re eating. Lobsters get their usual greenish-blue hue when crustacyanin—a protein they produce—combines with astaxanthin, a bright red carotenoid found in their diet. But if the lobsters aren’t eating their usual astaxanthin-rich fare like crabs and shrimp, the lack of pigment could give them a pastel appearance. It’s possible that the cotton candy lobsters have been relying on fishermen’s bait as their main food source, rather than finding their own.

While these vibrant specimens may look more beautiful than their dull-shelled relatives, even regular lobsters are cooler than you think—find out 25 fascinating facts about them here.

[h/t WMTW]

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