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Specially trained dog comforts grieving Dayton residents

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) — Bringing hope through healing — that’s the idea behind Jared the comfort dog.

The two-year-old Golden Retriever recently finished his first deployment as a comfort dog for Lutheran Church Charities, but no one could have anticipated it would have happened so quickly.

The same Sunday morning he had his “vesting” service at Holy Cross Church, which meant he graduated from puppy in training to official comfort dog, he was sent on his first assignment.

“They said there had been the mass shooting in Dayton, and since we are within easy traveling distance then we’re first deployed,” handler Adrienne Bolinger says.

Jared and three of his nine handlers got there as fast as they could.

“You’ve heard boots on the ground, we’re paws on the ground. We’re the presence, and our ministry is to bring mercy and compassion to those who are in need, those who are suffering,” Bolinger says.

Jared and his fellow comfort dogs spent about 48 hours in Dayton, mostly on the streets with residents still in shock.

After being trained since he was eight weeks old, it was a big first assignment.

“They’ll say, ‘Can I pet him?’ And I go, ‘Oh yes, that’s what he is here for.’ And then they just love on him forever if they could,” handler Pam Rusher says.

LCC’s K-9 comfort dogs are all purebred Golden Retrievers because of their calm, intelligent, people-loving personalities.

Bolinger says she was really proud of Jared’s stamina and the way he helped people at Dayton’s candlelight memorial attended by thousands.

“He has a sense of understanding, a sense of the depth of hurt or sorrow or perhaps fear. He’s there and just kind of leans in and lets them pet as long as they want,” she says.

Nine handlers from Holy Cross Church were on a waiting list for years to get a comfort dog.

They trained for a week in Chicago with Jared’s 25 commands, and practice with him all the time.

They’re not social workers — they and Jared are just there to offer comfort and compassion, something they feel they accomplished in Dayton.

“They’re a bridge to bring that caring and mercy and compassion to people. And I think Jared has done his job,” Bolinger says.

Jared has his own Facebook and Instagram accounts.

You can follow him there at Jared Comfort Dog.

All of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 comfort dogs go where they are requested, and do it at no cost.

The program relies on donations to operate.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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