Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon has shined the spotlight on the powerful effect dogs can have on traumatized and bereaved victims of disaster. NBC’s Today Show reported that five specially trained golden retrievers known as “comfort dogs” have been sent to Boston to assist with healing.
Research shows that relationships with pets can promote healing—not only for victims of tragic events, but for people facing chronic disease, like cancer. Harvard physiatrist Dr. Julie Silver, who surveyed cancer survivors for her book, What Helped Get Me Through, says pets figured prominently in her conversations. “Many people mentioned how much comfort their pets gave them,” she says. “Walking their dogs got them out of the house and talking to neighbors. Some adopted a kitten or a puppy, which entertained them with their antics and snuggled with them when they needed comfort. A connection with a pet can be great support—and powerful medicine.”
Therapy dogs like those working in Boston are now natural members of disaster relief teams. Indeed, two of the same dogs now providing comfort in Boston had been assisting in Newtown, Conn., since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December.
Therapy Dogs International helps train all types of dogs for assisting in all types of circumstances, including nursing homes, hospitals, schools and more.