Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs will be working in hospitals with those who were injured

By Amy Jamieson
Updated June 14, 2016 03:31 PM

A fleet of comfort dogs are in Orlando right now offering cuddles to people who need them most.

Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs group has deployed 19 people and 11 of its specially trained golden retrievers from 7 states — Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas — to Orlando, where they will help survivors and those who came to their aid cope, the group’s website says.

Forty-nine people were killed and 53 more were wounded in the early morning hours on Sunday at the Pulse nightclub, in what is now the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

“We will be working in the hospitals with those who were injured and will also be working with all the First Responders,” says a message on LCC’s website.

The group was invited to Orlando by Rev. Gregory S. Walton, President of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. They will be working through Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando, which has a ministry of outreach to the LGBT community that surrounds their congregation, the website says.

LCC were also among the first on the ground in the aftermath of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, and following the Boston bombing in 2013.

“[The dogs] help people relax and calm down,” Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, told ABC News. “Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking. They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”

Hetzner told ABC News that the dogs go through an intensive training program with volunteers before they are sent out as comforters.

While the group helps ease the pain of others, it’s asking for help in the form of prayers for “everyone going and those we will be serving,” says the LCC website, and “financial support to cover transportation and lodging costs. LCC never charges those we serve. Without your support, this travel is simply not possible.”

To help fund the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog program, click here.