Today I am remembering the victims of Sandy Hook. I cannot begin to imagine the depths of trauma the survivors and loved ones experienced, and are still experiencing. And while I should be thankful that I can’t imagine that, I am instead saddened that such tragedy even exists.
However, I AM thankful for the outpouring of compassion, love, and concern — which continues eight years later. I am thankful that therapy dogs were among the many strategies and tools used to help the people of Newtown.
This article, written a few months after the shootings, describes just how helpful therapy dogs can be to help navigate the emotions attached to such experiences.
…many of the Newtown officers wrote their reports about the shootings with a pen in one hand, and the other stroking a dog.
One thing adults and children alike have difficulty with is expressing all of the emotions involved with trauma. There are no words to adequately describe what they are dealing with. So without the vocabulary, how does one even begin to process, never mind heal?
This is where dogs shine. All dogs. But therapy dogs share a special affinity for instinctively knowing how to just be there. Merely petting a dog can bring one’s anxious, speeding heart rate back down. It can be easier to talk with a dog, because we know there is zero judgment. No pressure to feel better immediately. No advice given when our only need is to express our jumbled-up emotions, when we’re not ready to take anything in. We need to just let it out. There is only love.
Recent research has said that when [people] pet a dog, oxytocin is released, which causes people to feel relaxed and happy,” said Cynthia Hinckley, executive director of Bright Spot Therapy Dogs of Massachusetts, which visited Newtown High School one afternoon in December.
There are a great many stories of the bond between dogs and humans. Today I want to share this one. It’s an older article from that terrible time, but paints a picture of how therapy dogs from around the country swooped in to aid a school, an entire town, in need of comfort.