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Comfort dogs descend on Florida community after deadly school shooting


(PARKLAND, Fla.) — The handlers behind the comfort dogs making their way through the Florida community where 17 students and teachers were killed in a school shooting last week have a saying.

“We like to say, ‘Comfort walks in on four paws,'” Brenda Burden told ABC News today.

Burden and her husband, Phil, of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, have been in Parkland, Florida, this week with their dog Sasha and others with Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry.

The ministry was started in August 2008 and dispatches golden retrievers around the U.S. to help those grieving after tragedy. One dog named Jacob had traveled to Las Vegas and Orlando after the deadly mass shootings in those cities last year and the year before.

The ministry has more than 130 comfort dogs in more than 20 states has training sites in Illinois and Nebraska. The dogs are trained to remain calm and soothe people who are grieving or distressed.

According to the organization, the dogs had been dispatched to comfort residents and survivors after the Sandy Hook school massacre as well as after Hurricane Harvey.

According to Dana Yocum of Lutheran Church Charities, the ministry relies solely on donations for funding.

Burden said that 3-year-old Sasha and the other dogs were doing visits all week.

“We have been visiting the community at the Parkland amphitheater. We have been visiting first responders to thank them for their services,” she said. “Today, we started visiting elementary schools.”

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