Therapy dogs Visit Charleston, South Carolina

Comfort canines bring relief and hope to a city struck by tragedy.
By JoAnna Lou, June 2015, Updated July 2018
As animal lovers, we hardly need a reminder of the healing ability that our dogs have. Following last week's church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, therapy pets have been playing an important role in bringing relief to the community. But simply seeing pictures and stories of therapy dogs can be equally as important for breaking up all of the negativity we see on the news. Many of us around the world are heartbroken by the events, even though we may be thousands of miles away.

Meet Porsha, a St. Bernard, and George, a Labradoodle, two therapy dogs from HOPE Animal-Assistance Crisis Response who visited Charleston this week. Not only did they spread comfort, but they also served as a reminder of the greater mission at hand--to unite the community despite the shooter's attempt to divide.

Since September 2001, HOPE has organized therapy dog teams all over the country to deploy to places in need. They provide consistent training to respond to intense emotional and environmental situations. Porsha and George were much appreciated in Charleston and touched people in a variety of ways.

Ellie Fletcher came to a rally last Sunday to honor the victims. She told People Magazine that "there's so much bad stuff going on in this world, but after interacting with [the dogs], you know that you're always going to have someone to rely on, be that a dog or person. Someone's always going to love you."

For two kids at the park, petting George was actually the first time they'd ever touched a dog before. They were a little tentative at first, but were soon enamored by petting his fluffy fur after being told he wouldn't bite them.

GET THE BARK IN YOUR INBOX!

Sign up for our newsletter and stay in the know.

Email Address:

Karen Gregory was devastated by the recent events, which was compounded by the death of her mother last month. George and Porsha marked the first time Karen had smiled in days. She says that the pups made her forget her grief, even if it was just for a few seconds.

It's amazing to see the impact that two dogs can have on an entire community.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.