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A Chicago-area Christian charity has deployed a group of comfort dogs to Orlando, where the community is grieving the deaths of 49 people killed by 29-year-old Omar Mateen at a gay nightclub Sunday. According to the Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs Facebook page, the dogs traveled to Orlando on Monday to begin soothing first responders, as well as the dozens of people who are receiving care after sustaining injuries.
"Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking," Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, told ABC News. "They're good listeners, they're non-judgmental, they're confidential."
The attack in Orlando, now considered the nation’s largest mass shooting, resulted in the hospitalization of 44 victims at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Following the death of nine patients admitted to the hospital after the attack Sunday, six patients remain critically ill, five are in guarded condition, and 16 are stable.
People reported that Rev. Gregory S. Walton, president of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synoid, invited LLC K-9 Comfort Dogs to Orlando. Nineteen of the group’s people and 11 of its trained golden retrievers from seven states are in Orlando to help victims and first responders cope.
Comfort dogs from the Northbrook, Ill., group have been at victims’ sides after other attacks, including the Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing.
LLC K-9 Comfort Dogs provides care for free, but the group is asking for donations to help fund transportation and lodging costs for the dogs and their caregivers.