Maya Angelou is a woman that makes me think with her words of wisdom. She says, “I’m grateful for being here, for being able to think, for being able to see, for being able to taste, for appreciating love – for knowing that it exists in a world so rife with vulgarity, with brutality and with violence, and yet love exists. I’m grateful to know that it exists.”
Even in the world that we live in with all the terrorism, violence and plain disregard for a life, both for humans and our four-legged friends, we can still find comfort that love still exists.
It has been almost two months since the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. That day a young man named Adam Lanza went into that school and shot and killed 20 children and 6 staff members of that school before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.
I, like so many Americans, sat in astonishment that this could happen again in our country, the home of the free and the brave. A tragedy so horrible, that you sit and wonder how can these remaining people of this school and community put the pieces back together again and then came the dogs.
As only a day passed, several Comfort Dogs made the journey to Newtown to bring comfort to those that were left behind with no visions of fanfare, TV shows and paparazzi.
I read on Facebook of someone complaining that Portage was not doing anything to help with this tragedy. Little did this person know that two of those Comfort Dogs were residents of our community and were out in Newtown with their handlers.
The Lutheran Church Charities based out of Addison, Ill., maintains a Comfort Dog Ministry which is comprised of Golden Retrievers trained for a year to give people peace and comfort in Illinois and Northwest Indiana. It is a fact that petting a dog or a cat is soothing and lowers one’s blood pressure. Two of those dogs are Barnabas, who is a honorary Portage Kiwanis member, and Prince, who is a dog assigned to Portage High School with Tim Kunstek. They made the journey with Reverend Tim Engel, Dan and Karen Fulkerson from the Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
As soon as the dogs arrived at the memorial at Newtown, the children immediately went to pet the 10 dogs that arrived and after the media got a hold of this, the dogs were everywhere in the news from Don Lemon on CNN, Jill Rappaport on NBC and the Today Show on CBS. Barnabas and Prince were definitely stand outs with the community and the media.
They brought joy and hope to the people hurting in this community. The town packed the Newtown High School gym and the dogs arrived to thunderous applause and attention which is exactly what they are trained to do. A banner with these words hung on the wall, “Our collective strength and resilience will serve as an example to the rest of the world”.
Portage is definitely blessed having this ministry in our community. Prince will be going into semi-retirement after this school year and Holy Cross is seeking donations to purchase another comforting canine to help out. If you are interested in helping them succeed in this worthwhile ministry, please contact Pastor Tim Engel at (219) 763-6343.
Portage Comfort Dogs rock.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.