Go Hug a ‘Comfort Dog’ And Make Yourself Feel Better About Everything
The comfort canines from Newtown, Connecticut are here in Boston to help with the healing process.
When it comes to coping with trauma and anxiety, hugging a dog is the best medicine, experts say.
This week, several canines from the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs program will be at the First Lutheran Church of Boston, which is just blocks away from the finish line of the Boston Marathon race, to let residents and those trying to cope with Mondayâ€™s tragedy hug and pet them.
The dogs were deployed to Boston on April 15, the same day as the bombs detonated along the marathon route, injuring hundreds of people and killing three others. They will be at the church through Sunday, April 21, for people to spend time with during the healing process.Â Two of the dogs from the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs program, Addie and Maggie, who were recently in Newtown, Connecticut and at Sandy Hook Elementary School helping victims and families there, will also be present in Boston.
The arrival of the dogs was organized by Reverend Ingo Dutzmann, pastor of the First Lutheran Church, so they could â€śbe there for those in the community who are shaken up from the bombings.â€ťÂ Dutzmann is a close associate of a pastor in Connecticut, and the two connected immediately after the marathon attack to arrange for the animals to ship up to Boston.Â At the start of the week there were two dogs, but as of Wednesday, Dutzmann says three more have arrived to meet the high demand to pet the animals. The dogs have also spent time at local hospitals,Â visitingÂ victims of the marathon tragedy.
Dutzmann says the church has been crowded with people since Monday, all wanting to spend time with the volunteer pets. â€śA lot of people are showing up. [The dogs] produce their own advertising, really. Itâ€™s kind of like a pretty girl in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. I think those girls are great, of course, but I think these dogs are better. These dogs are 100-percent geared toward how they can make someone feel better,â€ť he says. â€śThe animals have that sixth senseâ€”they know what youâ€™re feeling and somehow they know how to respond.â€ť
Those feelings of comfort people experience when petting the dogs come from chemicals being released in the brain, according to Marjorie Jacobs, a training associate at Boston Universityâ€™s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. â€śWhen we are hyper vigilant and alert the body is releasing [many different chemicals]. And when in the company of a calm animal, it elicits a relaxation response. You settle in, youâ€™re not hyper vigilant,â€ť she says. â€śAlso there is that unconditional love and attention and support that the animals give.â€ť
Jacobs says that repeatedly petting the animals and holding them releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone and chemical that is released when babies are being breast fed, which brings people â€śback into the present momentâ€ť and gives them â€śa break to forget about the past, and from thinking about the anxiety in the future.â€ť
The powerful hormone is said to increase â€śpair bonding.â€ť
Not to mention, dogs donâ€™t have much to say when someone pours their heart out to them, seeking comfort. â€śOf course, dogs donâ€™t talk back,â€ť says Jacobs. â€śIt turns off the thinking mind, because you know you canâ€™t [have a conversation] with the animalsâ€¦you suspend your thinking and then the physical touch and gazing into the eyes calms down the body.â€ť
Because the services are free,Â the group that owns the dogs has started a fundraiserÂ to help keep the animals in Boston through the weekend.
If you would like to spend time with the dogs, visit the Lutheran Church at 299 Berkeley St. Their services will be available, free, and open to the public at the following times:
Wednesday: 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: Call ahead at 617-536-8851
Sunday: Starting at 7 a.m.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/04/17/comfort-dogs-boston-location/