By: Chris Warren
In the aftermath of the radical Islamist terror attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, it’s nearly impossible to write about anything else this week. Like all decent people, I was horrified and deeply saddened over what happened. There is no true healing; the surviving victims and families of the lost have no choice but to find a way to endure a pain that will never completely go away. Messengers of peace have been dispatched to Orlando that will hopefully contribute to helping the community cope with the pain: Comfort dogs.
I was so distracted and disturbed that I considered not even doing an article this week. It would have been the first time since this blog started that I skipped a deadline. Instead, I decided to push ahead and find something, anything, I could pull out of this terrible loss that fulfills the thoughtful, positive, relevant mission of Twenty First Summer. I knew it would be a heavy lift: How do I find a benevolent message in a such a hugely malevolent act and not make it sound dismissive of the emotional torment of those directly effected?
The Lutheran Church Charities comfort dogs and their handlers are sent on a moment’s notice to all kinds of trouble spots where their sole mission is to bring unconditional love –the kind only dogs can express– to people who are in such intense pain that they may feel that love has ceased to exist.
Hugging comfort dogs has no downside. No one has ever hugged a dog and went away from the experience not feeling better. And the comfort dogs give the Lutheran Church an outreach to people who might otherwise not be open to anything a church has to say.
All these missionary comfort dogs do is walk around and let people pet and hug them. Really, that’s it. It doesn’t sound like much, but to those on the receiving end of their wagging tails and sunny dispositions, it is a powerful healing force. The clinical effectiveness of therapy animals is admittedly a bit cloudy, yet no science is needed to explain the smiles of happiness the comfort dogs provoke in people who have little to be happy about.
When there are no words to express sadness and despair, let the comfort dogs silently work their magic. I understand it’s certainly not a long term solution to the grief of the victims’ loved ones, but in the midst of so much hurt, a dog can be a powerful force for good, even if just for a few moments.
Week after week I discuss a topic that I hope will have a positive impact on my readers’ lives. The truth is, nothing positive can be said about a radical Islamic terrorist attack. At the same time, saying nothing is cowardly and disrespectful to those effected.
We, all of us, owe it to the victims to do what we can to lessen the pain, knowing full well that making them whole is an impossible aspiration. It’s something of an irony that non-human comfort dogs are sent to help patch up the evil of humans. The Bible teaches us that God’s love can come in unexpected forms. Yes, I absolutely do believe that animals can be His ministers.
I would like the people of Orlando, Florida to know how much I deeply care about them. I wish I could undo everything that happened, and I hope the Lutheran Church comfort dogs silently speak the love that I can’t adequately say myself.
Peace be with you.