Some Comfort in Newton/ Sandy Hook

“I think we’re a very frightened people” (Michael Moore, December, 2012)

This holiday season arrived with yet another heartbreaking, gun related massacre. Please keep in mind that with this and other similar tragedies, corporate controlled media reports are often erroneous…and that things are not always what they seem. Now is a time for grief and reflection. Uncovering the many layers of this complex event requires patience, and hidden systemic elements may only come into focus over time. Unlike our other gun related mass murder episodes my sense is that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre may represent a cultural tipping point in American’s relationship with their firearms…at least within our legal system, And, to some limited extent, changes may be brewing within the mass media, video game, entertainment and pharmacological industries.

One small bright spot appeared in the grief stricken Connecticut community with the arrival of gentle, golden retriever comfort dogs whose mission in life is to help people feel better. As the trainer of this team of canines from the Lutheran Church Charities explained, “These dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone”. For several hours they drew grateful attention at the teddy bear memorial set up near the town Christmas tree. Many locals, visitors, journalists and even crews from the multiple satellite trucks, paused and took time to stroke the soft, furry “emotional counselors”. These dogs understand the power of loving presence. They don’t ask anyone to describe their feelings when there just are no words; and they never say the wrong thing.

Therapy animals are used in a number of programs across the country. Organizations such as the ASPCA and Pet Partners, offer training for pet owners who would like to volunteer their pets for service to people in need; cancer support groups, autistic children, elder and nursing care homes, the disabled and victims of tragedy. In my own experience of working with traumatized people, animals have often been an important resource. While I was in private practice, my own animals would sometimes attend certain sessions. Clients were always welcome to bring their own pets and many of them often did. Dogs have also been welcome visitors to my international seminars and some of them even became “regulars”.

(Agence France-Presse, “Dogs help Newton residents cope with tragedy”, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012) (Mary Elizabeth Williams, www.salon.com ,12/18/2012)

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