Comfort dogs helping at UCC: “You can really see the transfer of - KPTV - FOX 12

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Comfort dogs helping at UCC: “You can really see the transfer of emotion”

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Katie and Luther, two of six comfort dogs at UCC. Katie and Luther, two of six comfort dogs at UCC.
Two of the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry teams from Lutheran Church Charities. Two of the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry teams from Lutheran Church Charities.
ROSEBURG, OR (KPTV) -

As messages of support come in to Roseburg from all over the country in the wake of the deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College, there’s one group in particular helping not only on two legs but on four.

Six comfort dogs – along with 14 volunteers – are now at UCC helping students, staff and even first responders during this difficult time.

“It just brings a calmness about people when they see the dog,” Rich Martin told Fox 12 Tuesday.  “You can really see the transfer of emotion and feeling in petting a dog.  The dog’s non-threatening, the dogs don’t ask questions, the dogs keep your confidentially.”

They’re from the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry operated by Lutheran Church Charities, a nonprofit based in Illinois.

The teams that are now in Roseburg come from all over the country; they arrived Sunday and will stay through Thursday.  Then, a separate team will be on campus from Monday through Thursday of next week as students return to class for the first time.

“We knew there would be a lot of emotion, a lot of hurting people that needed help and some comfort,” added fellow handler, Andy Rathe.

In the last two days, they’ve already met with hundreds of people.  Some only pet the dogs for a moment, while others lay down next to them and stay for an hour.

“We don’t do the talking, we let the person on the other end of the leash have their time with the dog,” Martin added.  “As they feel comfortable or willing, sometimes they share and sometimes they just sit and pet and process.”

Over the years, the organization has sent comfort dogs to fires and floods, natural disasters and yes, other mass shootings.

Martin and his wife responded to Sandy Hook Elementary, and ended up staying for six weeks.

The K-9 ministry was started in 2008 in response to another shooting – the massacre at Northern Illinois University.

Now, the team is in Roseburg, wishing they didn’t have to be.

“We’ve met so many people who have moved here trying to get away from things in bigger cities,” Martin added.  *[There are] a lot of brave people, just being able to step on this beautiful, idyllic campus, in a place where nobody can even imagine something like this would happen.”

The group is in the quad at the center of campus available to anyone who needs them.

“I’m a school teacher so anytime there’s a shooting at a college or elementary it really hits home to me,” Rathe explained.  “They’re just hurting, they want someone to listen… It’s just been an honor and a privilege to help.”

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