The comfort dogs that have become a familiar sight following tragedies like Newtown are headed to Marysville, Wash., to help those trying to deal with Friday's deadly high school shooting.
Lutheran Church Charities, an Addison, Ill.-based organization, said three of its K-9 comfort dogs will be arriving in Marysville on Monday, three days after a freshman opened fire in Marysville-Pilchuck High School, killing one student and injuring four others before killing himself. On Sunday, Gia Soriano, a 14-year-old who had been in critical condition, died from her wounds. Three other students remain hospitalized.
The golden retrievers — 6-year-old Shami, 3-year-old Luther and 9-month-old Aaron — will be hosted at Messiah Lutheran Church, about a mile from the high school, and will stay throughout the weekend.
With classes canceled this week, students and parents "will be looking for places to gather and talk," Lutheran Church Charities president Tim Hetzner explained in an email. "The Lutheran Church is one of those places close to the high school that will be open for this to happen."
The comfort dogs, which first gained national attention for their presence in the aftermath of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have been deployed in the wake of dozens of traumatic events, including the Moore, Okla., tornado; West, Texas, plant explosion; Prescott, Ariz., wildfire; and Boulder, Colo., flood.
In Newtown, the dogs were omnipresent in the days after the massacre, stationed at makeshift memorials and brought in to schools to help children cope with the killings. School officials wanted the retrievers to maintain a presence at Sandy Hook School, and the group permanently placed two canines in Newtown.
After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, they returned to Boston four times to help the city heal. In April, six golden retrievers, including the two embedded in Newtown, were called to distract those still coping with memories on the anniversary of the terror attack.
Hetzner wrote that "within hours of the shooting," local pastors requested that the comfort dogs come to Marysville, adding that the group is accepting donations to cover travel expenses.