Day by Day
Four legged friend in need offers comfort
by Liz Thompson
December 10, 2015
“Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy.”
These words from God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen will be heard this Christmas season, as they have since first published in 1833, a mere 182 years ago.
Life has changed since those days. We know a lot more about physical comfort, something we all hope for: a comfortable chair, a bed, shoes, clothes and basically, a comfortable life.
Does it happen the way we hope? Sometimes we are blessed with things going as we think they should.
We especially seek comfort in times of illness, grief, or confusion. After a hard day’s work, that recliner calls us to prop our feet up and read, rest, enjoy our family, or watch television. But life has a way of keeping our feet on the ground and life scurrying around us, no matter what we want to happen.
It has been proven that pets lower blood pressure. Put a furry, cuddly creature in your lap, or next to you – maybe while your recliner is in the up position – and as you stroke the fur, your shoulders relax, your worries diminish and life seems to be pleasant, at least for the short term.
Two years ago, such a furry creature was born to a mission of silently comforting others. Last year, after a year’s training, Rosie, a Golden Retriever, was placed permanently in the Passing of the Leash ceremony as a Comfort Dog for Atonement Lutheran Church and Preschool in Northwest Columbus.
She lives with Atonement’s music director, but many people are trained as her handlers, taking her where she is called to go.
Rosie likes to go to church and cares not which one. She will greet people as they come in and leave, listen attentively to the sermon and music, lie down or sit while people pet her and accept her unconditional love.
With the command “visit,” Rosie will place her head in your lap. “Lap” has her upper body and front legs lying across your lap. That’s your cue to hug her, stroke her fur or bury your face in that same, soft fur. Maybe you’ll sigh, or cry, talk to her or laugh. There are no rules and Rosie cares not which you do.
She joined more than 80 other dogs across the U.S., as a part of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry. There are other similar programs in the U.S. that bless people.
These dogs are “trained service animals prepared to interact with people in ways that provide a bridge for compassionate ministry. LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs are friends who bring a calming influence, allowing people to open up their hearts and receive help in times of need.”
She also goes to schools, nursing homes, assistive living facilities, funeral homes and funerals, libraries – she loves to be read to and might nap a little – disaster scenes, and she has her day in court, when needed.
Imagine you need to give testimony in court, or even worse, you are a child having to do this same thing. Your nerves are rattled and you hope your words make sense and your answers to questions are appropriate. Sweaty palms, right? A sleepless night beforehand, most certainly.
Now imagine the same scenario and Rosie is seated next to you, your hand on her head or back. Her presence steadies you. It’s still not an easy time, but you have a friend in your corner. If you are that child, you might even pretend you are talking to Rosie, not an attorney or judge. It has happened.
On January 5, four LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs and their handlers from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio were deployed to Washington Courthouse where Rosie was the “top dog.” They were there to “offer support and unconditional love to the family and community that lost three boys and a grandmother on Christmas night.”
The true meaning of Christmas often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the month. Comfort dogs remind us of what’s important.
“Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place, and with true love and brotherhood, each other now embrace; this holy tide of Christmas Doth bring redeeming grace, O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.”