Dogs comforting Waukesha community following tragedy

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:33 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:30 PM CST
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WAUKESHA, Wis. (WBAY) - The Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry was deployed to Waukesha following the Christmas parade tragedy.

Seven golden retrievers, including five from Wisconsin, offered their services during a vigil at Cutler Park Monday evening.

“One thing that they bring is the spirit of compassion, and they bring the spirit of presence,” said Gary Kilvinger, a dog handler from Brookfield.

The LCC is a national non-profit trying to bring peace on the hardest moments in people’s lives.

“Dogs have been deployed to nationwide tragedies. There’s 100 plus dogs around the country that are part of this program,” said Kilvinger.

Candace, Charity, Mary, Rhoda and Zoey are based in Wisconsin. Bekah and Tobias are from Illinois. All of them completed 2,000 hours of training that allows them to bring relief to people in seconds.

“The dogs bring--at that moment--two or maybe five minutes of time when they’re with the dog, that they’re (people) just really relaxed and they feel less anxiety than they did before they started with the dogs,” said Kilvinger.

The comfort dogs are also there to listen when it can be hard for someone to share their emotions with others.

“The dog hears what they’re saying, and it could be a number of things that help them to process what it is that’s on their minds and on their hearts,” said Kilvinger.

The LCC attends events they are invited to, and offers its help for free.

“As we look forward to next week, we’ll be at some of the schools, and we’ll also perhaps be at the police department and other events where we can do those kinds of things,” said Kilvinger.

The dogs will also be helping the first responders who helped the Christmas parade victims and witnesses.

“The dogs are just doing their jobs. That’s what they’re trained to do, to bring this calmness to people’s live,” said Kilvinger.

The LCC Hearts of Mercy and Compassion Ministry sent crosses to the vigil which people can write condolence messages on. The crosses have been moved to the memorial site in Waukesha where one will be set in place for those who were killed in the tragedy.

To learn more on the LCC K9 Comfort Dog Ministry, click here.

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