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Columns

December 31, 2012

Canines create unforgettable moments

(Continued)

Being a dog owner, I can understand the intense bond that one establishes with a beloved pet. These two were together constantly until Ralph’s dog years caught up with him a few months ago. It was a sorrowful parting for sure, but lives end, spirits are renewed and we move forward. Molly has replaced Ralph as the new tail-wagger in Mike’s life now. But I think Ralph’s presence will always manifest itself when the squirrels begin running and it is adventure time anew for man and dog.

If you look up the definition of “man’s best friend” in the dictionary, I am sure it will say: “See Newell, Ralph.”

I, like everyone else, was stunned into immobility by the carnage at Newtown, Conn. Little kids killed, grieving parents, a mourning nation. We all felt it.

One evening while watching CNN the reporter said, “And look who just arrived folks.” The camera then panned to two big vans sliding open their side doors. Out spilled what seemed like 101 golden retrievers.

In reality it was only eight dogs, but they were amazing to watch. They came from a Chicago organization called the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs. These dogs bring an awesome amount of spiritual healing power with them. I watched as they simply ambled up and into the silent throngs, a mass of lapping tongues, dancing eyes and whipsawing tails.

Children gleefully ran to the dogs, and grieving parents surrounded them. Strangers approached the placid canines to touch them, pet them or, like many others, just to kneel in their presence. The public memorial space, which had just been a scene of tears, silence and saddened townspeople, had all at once been turned into a cooing, giggling calm harbor of tranquility.

And all because eight giant dogs had insinuated themselves into a delicate and distraught situation. When disaster strikes, these dogs climb into the van and go with an army of volunteers to share their unique talents. From Hurricane Sandy to Joplin, Mo., and beyond, they have traveled near and far across the U.S. One little girl in Newtown stopped petting the dogs for a moment, looked up into the camera and with a tiny smile whispered, “They are like angels.”

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