Therapy Dogs Head To El Paso To Comfort Shooting Victims And First Responders

In the wake of the tragic mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, groups are reaching out to help in concrete ways.

One of them is Methodist Healthcare System in San Antonio, Texas, which sent three of its therapy dogs — Chanel, Lady and Rudy — to help comfort first responders and victims of the El Paso attack. The Saturday shooting left 22 people dead and 26 injured in an incident that is being investigated as domestic terrorism.

“Chanel and Rudy our facility dogs made it to El Paso this morning,” wrote Methodist Healthcare System on Facebook Aug. 4. “They are already providing their unconditional love and support to first responders helping them cope through this traumatic time. Thanks to Southwest Airlines safely and swiftly getting them down there. We will continue to send prayers to El Paso as well as to Dayton OH.”

These “facility first responder dogs” come from Service Dogs, Inc. and receive additional training beyond that of a normal therapy dog.

“You’ll actually see them head straight for a person that’s displaying the most distress. It’s pretty amazing to watch,” Lee Stanphill, EMS relations manager and facility dog handler told San Antonio’s KSAT12 news station about the dogs. “It also just lightens family members and the patients, first responders, everybody’s spirits generally that’s in the room.”

An additional video posted by Methodist Healthcare System on Aug. 5 showed Chanel and Rudy visiting with emergency room and first responder staff at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso.

“We’re happy to provide these heartwarming interactions, as many times healthcare employees and first responders don’t have the opportunity to grieve and release their stress,” the company posted.

The dogs are already making an impact. One Facebook commenter, Melissa Herrera, replied to a Methodist Healthcare System post about the dogs flying to El Paso saying, “Thank you so much we love them here at the 911 dispatch center and they helped us a lot!”

Therapy dogs have been used to help those coping in the aftermath of the Parkland shootings, Las Vegas shootings and Pulse nightclub shootings.

Methodist Healthcare said in a press release, “These dogs can reach places in the heart no human can.”