Unless you are like Lucy of Charlie Brown fame, most people find dog kisses to be relaxing and a source of stress relief. As a part of its outreach to the community, Lutheran Church Charities created a comfort dog program featuring two dogs, Ezra and Anna. Anna stopped by campus to greet some students to help answer some questions about how comfort dog programs work.
Friday, Anna and her handler stopped by Kohl hall to share their ministry with the campus. For these comfort dogs and their handlers, it is definitely a form of ministry.
These dogs are useful in a variety of settings. LCC has deployed their dogs after national crisis situations including hurricanes, tornadoes and even after mass shootings.
College campuses are beginning to see the value of having these dogs as part of the support available to students as well. Yale University has a comfort dog who is a resident of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, where students can “check him out” and take him to a special room to play for an hour.
Anna is owned by the church itself, while Ezra is owned by the larger denomination and is based at Trinity Lutheran in Toledo. They were bought specifically for this purpose and raised to be comfort dogs.
The Lutheran Church and Charities have chosen to seek out specific breeds and temperaments of that breed, and the Alliance of Therapy Dogs explains that any friendly, well-mannered dog can be trained for this service. The only requirements are that they be at least one year old, well-behaved in any situation and love to be handled by people.
Anna and Ezra have a total of 12 handlers who are certified to take them out into the community to do their work. They also have six assistant handlers to help manage the workload.
Individuals also have access to certified emotional support dogs on campuses as well. These dogs are different than comfort or therapy dogs because they don’t require training and oversight that a comfort dog does. For a pet to become an emotional support animal, all that is required is written documentation from a physician or psychiatrist that says the animal is necessary for mental health and the dog is well-behaved.
Launched in August 2008, the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry is a national human-care ministry embracing the unique, calming nature and skills of purebred Golden Retrievers. The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, LCC Kare 9 Military Ministry Dogs, and LCC K-9 Police Ministry Dogs are a bridge for compassionate ministry, opening doors for conversation about faith and creating opportunities to share the mercy, compassion, presence and proclamation of Jesus Christ.
These servants are in the community with Anna and Ezra almost daily visiting schools, hospitals, nursing homes, courtrooms, and beyond.