On Valentine’s Day, a gunman killed 17 people, and injured 15 others, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the weeks since, students who were there during the tragic shooting have described being afraid to go back, and some have said that they would likely not return when the school reopened—at least not at first.
But as most students returned to school earlier this week, comfort dogs were on hand to help them during this difficult time. Principal Ty Thompson took to Twitter to share some adorable photos of both students and faculty interacting with the dogs:
Staff came back to campus today: it was a great start to the healing process. Thank you to the therapy dogs; that really helped a lot of us; 🦅🦅🦅 pic.twitter.com/Teu0vQuiK5
— Ty Thompson (@Ty_Thompson71) February 24, 2018
Here’s a dog in a classroom enjoying attention from a number of students. Thompson called the therapy dogs “a major source of healing”:
This was just one of many photos taken today! Thanks to the therapy dogs; they have been a major source of healing for my Eagles!🦅🦅 pic.twitter.com/s6pRKDEuAq
— Ty Thompson (@Ty_Thompson71) February 28, 2018
Nine of the dogs came from Lutheran Church Charities in Illinois. The K-9 Comfort Dogs from this organization travel all over the country to offer support to victims after tragedies. The dogs were there after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016. They also came to the aid of people suffering after the shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017.
“Dogs show unconditional love,” Tim Hetzner, the president of Lutheran Church Charities who founded the K-9 program in 2008, told the Huffington Post. “They’re good listeners, they’re confidential, they don’t take notes.”
Additional therapy dogs came from Humane Broward’s Animal Assisted Therapy. Here’s a photo posted by the organization of one of their dogs looking right at home with the students:
The dogs were so popular that even more were invited back on March 1 so that as many students as possible could benefit:
Day 2 of healing is underway! pic.twitter.com/JR8STFiDaY
— Ty Thompson (@Ty_Thompson71) March 1, 2018
As students work to process this terrible event, many have been inspired to become young activists for gun control to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. One student, Anthony Borges, saved the lives of several of his classmates during the shooting and suffered several gunshot wounds himself as a result. A fundraising campaign to pay for Borges’ medical costs has raised more than $500,000.
We’re so glad these students were able to get some healing and comfort from these sweet dogs during their time of need!