The aftermath of a terrible tragedy has brought a community together, and some gentle pups are helping to shine a light in the darkness.
The therapy dogs and human volunteers of HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response are bringing smiles to a community heartbroken by the horrific, hate-fueled violence inflicted by a lone gunman who killed nine people at Charleston’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
At a recent rally in Charleston to honor the victims, a Labradoodle named George and a St. Bernard named Porsha were on hand for snuggles and kisses.
HOPE serves both first responders and victims of trauma on both the individual and group level. The non-profit was founded in September 2001, and dispatches teams of handlers and their dogs where help is needed. Handlers Julie Scott and Cindy Becker were at the rally with Porsha and George.
It takes a special kind of pup to be a therapy dog, and children and adults alike take comfort in even just a few minutes of contact. “I’ve had big burly police officers put their heads down on George and sob,” says Scott.
Fourteen-year-old Ellie Fletcher told People that Portia was a “stress reliever.”
“The dogs bring out positive emotions. I feel loved petting her, because there’s so much bad stuff going on in this world, but after interacting with her you know you’re always going to have someone to rely on, be that a dog or a person – someone’s always going to love you and let you love them.”
For help with a crisis, to become a volunteer, or donate to HOPE, click here.