In the wake of the horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, Gracie’s handlers got a call. Her services, not surprisingly, would be needed.
At press time, she was set to be in flight, on her way from Davenport, IA, to Central Florida’s City Beautiful, perhaps even comforting victims and family members by lunchtime.
“Her purpose is to share love and compassion with those who are suffering,” Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of Gracie’s handlers, told Illinois/Iowa news station KWQC. “And dogs are wonderful listeners, and that’s so much of what these people need.”
Gracie, a 5-year-old golden retriever, is a Lutheran Church Charity K9 Comfort dog. Based out of Davenport’s Trinity Lutheran Church, she has been specially trained to ease human suffering.
Dogs like Gracie generally spend time in their own communities, visiting schools, hospitals and nursing homes, but sometimes they are deployed to areas struck by tragic circumstances. In the past, Gracie has been on hand to comfort victims following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, CT, and also to Prescott, AZ, following the Yarnell Hill Fire in which 19 firefighters lost their lives.
This week, dogs from around the country will be visiting Orlando-area churches, hospitals and the like, in order to comfort people following what is now the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
“We encourage those [in Orlando] who are grieving to sit down on the floor and pet dogs like Gracie,” Marsh-Johnson says. “The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”