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'Comfort Dogs' among first responders working FedEx mass shooting scene, aftermath

Golden Retrievers help heal following tragedy
Posted at 12:11 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 12:11:04-04

INDIANAPOLIS — In the shadows of tragedy there is a line of comfort standing by to help those who are living through the hardest days of their lives. A crew of Comfort Dogs is among the first responders working in Indianapolis after the FedEx mass shooting.

"We respond with booths and paws on the ground within 24 hours of crisis or a disaster once we have an invite in," Tim Hetzner, President and CEO of Lutheran Church Charities, said.

In the hours after the shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx facility that left eight people dead, eight Golden Retrievers from around the Midwest were dispatched to central Indiana. Their job is to just listen to anyone who needs a confidential ear to express what may be hard to say out loud after witnessing death, destruction and devastation.

"The dog brings an element, particularly in crisis and disaster where people are processing so much. It gives them a chance to pet the dog and many times Cameron, they talk to the dog first before they talk to a person," Hetzner said.

Hetzner deploys with the K-9 Ministries Disaster Response team. Since 2008 he's been sent around the country responding to just about every major crisis or disaster, from Hurricane Katrina to Sandy Hook Elementary and now to Indianapolis.

Over the past week, these dogs who Hetzner often refers to as 'cute blondes' have been on duty at weekend vigils. He says the list of people who stop and talk is long.

"It's first responders, it's ER rooms, it's the coroner's office, imagine processing those bodies," Hetzner said.

Hetzner says the best advice for people trying to cope with the shooting at FedEx is to find someone who will simply listen without judgment.

"Find if they don't have someone or some animal that's safe that they can talk to that's not going to talk back and give them advice. That they're going to listen. Find listeners," Hetzner said.

The Comfort Dogs will still be available after they leave Indianapolis. Anyone can set up a virtual talk with a Comfort Dog 24 hours a day.

Click the links below to connect with the Comfort Dogs on their website and to schedule a session