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January 18, 2013

Golden retrievers off to serve a mission

JOPLIN, Mo.. — Louie and Jackson are quick to respond to a tragedy. They come armed with a smile -- and a wag of the tail. 

The  golden retrievers serve a mission: Helping communities recover from a disaster.

In return, they only seek a gentle pat or two.

For the past year and half they were in Joplin, helping  a community recover from a series of devastating tornadoes. Now they are off to Newtown, Conn., in hopes of bringing comfort and relief to a town suffering from the aftermath of a horrific school shooting.

Jason Glaskey, minister of youth and families at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Joplin, said the dogs have been invaluable there. “They serve as a bridge for conversation," he said.  "As people pet the dogs, they are able to open up and talk about what is affecting them.”

Glaskey said Louie and Jackson, who are brothers, provide comfort and ease the way for people to discuss their inner  feelings. “They helped people talk about the tragedy we had gone through,” he said.

The dogs will work with school counselors in Newtown, site of the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults.

“These dogs are especially good at comforting children and the elderly, and working after a disaster,” Glaskey said. “They will be working with the counselors who are helping the children and families deal with what happened to them a month ago.”

In Joplin, the dogs visit schools and churches. They also go on regular rounds at hospitals and visit shut-ins.

It will be their first assignment away from Joplin and the animals will be in Newtown for a week.

“We have been invited to be part of that healing process,” Glaskey said.

Lutheran Church Charities has more than 50 such dogs at work across the country, responding to various needs.

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Details for this story were provided by The Joplin (Mo.) Globe.

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