Therapy Dogs Comfort Boston Marathon Victims and Prove Why They’re Called “Man’s Best Friend”

What if it was your job to just comfort people when they are distressed? Literally. That’s it. No pesky boss telling you to do your job. No cranky customers demanding a 2 cent refund for a bottle of “funny tasting” Pepsi. No unreasonable deadlines cutting into your “tanning by the pool” time. No. Your only responsibility is to nuzzle up to an upset individual until they feel better. Sound like a job for you?

Then you might want to become a dog. Specifically, a therapy dog. On Tuesday night, a number of Golden Retriever therapy dogs, the same ones that comforted the Newtown victims after the Sandy Hook shooting, headed over to Massachusetts to help comfort the victims of the Boston Marathon explosion. First Lutheran Church shuttled the pooches directly to the site.

This warms my heart more than kittens in sweaters cuddling with orphans who are simultaneously planning the world’s most extensive community service project and also trying to bring world peace because, at that point, why not? I’ve always believed that animals have magical powers. Every time my cat looks intensely at a certain spot on the ceiling, I know she is looking at a ghost and is secretly trying to protect me (or, maybe, she’s just watching a floating piece of dust and I’ve watched too many scary movies but we’ll ignore that explanation for argument’s sake). I’ve heard about Oscar the Cat, who jumps on the bed of nursing home patients hours before they mysteriously die. Pets, I think, have another sense, a third eye that can see and feel things that we cannot. (And yet, cats can’t seem to understand the laser pointer concept? I’m missing the logic here.)

Why can’t we initiate projects like this for every event? Why are therapy dogs confined to extreme catastrophes? Studies have shown that simply petting animals reduces stress and anxiety. (This is my shameless plug for a nationwide effort to bring cute animals to college campuses during finals week.) There’s no reason we can’t do this all the time. I can see it now: The De-Stress Puppy Palace. Dogs of all different sizes scurry around the room. Women shuffle in, eyes puffy, their post-relationship wounds still dripping. One pup trots over and kisses her hand. Her face lights up with a smile. Before she can walk any further, she steps in something dark and wet. The dog, satisfied with the gift he’d left the woman, skips away, past two other dogs who are fighting over a bone too small for either one to enjoy anyway. Another canine walks past the window outside and a barking anthem erupts. (Okay, I’m starting to see the reasons why this might not be possible but, in theory, it is a nice idea.)

In all seriousness, dogs offer more emotional benefits to us than we could ever imagine and we have yet to take advantage of all they can offer. We spend more money on pining dogs against each other in this country than we do on using them for our benefit. If we funneled all the money from Pit Bull and Rottweiler fights into Therapy Dog companies, the world would be a better place. I don’t mean to make animals sound like tools here. I’m just saying that dogs are called “Man’s Best Friend” for a reason. We shouldn’t ignore their ability to make us feel better.

When tragedies like the Boston Marathon hit, it can be hard to find a silver lining or even a microscopic silver thread for that matter. While we can count on the benevolence of people, like those runners who ran straight to MGH to donate blood upon hearing about the blasts, it doesn’t hurt to accept help from another source, specifically one with flowing blonde locks and floppy ears. As a Bostonian, and a human, really, I’m thankful for these dogs and for the people who had the idea to start this program. I’m thankful that one day, someone decided they should use their pet for something other than making them feel safer when they’re home alone (although I’m not condemning anyone for that either), that someone was like, “Hey, let’s bring Buddy to Boston tomorrow for the sheer purpose of making people feel better.” I’m thankful that these thought processes outweigh those that say “Hey, let’s blow up two bombs in the middle of a crowd so I can hurt as many innocent people as possible.” I’m thankful that, as Patton Oswalt said, “the good outnumber [the bad], and we always win.”

Original story and Image via The Huffington Post.

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