Canine therapy dogs step in to help those traumatised by America’s shooting massacres

Since the Uvalde school shooting in which nineteen children and two teachers were killed by a single shooter with a semiautomatic rifle, there have been seventeen other mass shootings according to the website THE TRACE. I knew that there had been a number since then but I didn’t realise that there had been seventeen! I find that extraordinary. There have been over 200 shooting massacres in the USA so far in 2022. But this article is about the good following the horrific; the squads of canine crisis counsellors who travel the country to provide much-needed calm and therapy to those who have been deeply shocked and traumatised by these massacres.

Exon a black labrador was part of the Canine Crisis Response team serving relatives of victims of the Uvalde school shooting
Exon a black labrador was part of the Canine Crisis Response team serving relatives of victims of the Uvalde school shooting. Photo: Canine Response Team.

The founder and president of Tri-State Canine Response Team, Janice Campbell, said: “Since 2015 we’d been to 12 mass shootings”. Their team sent certified handlers and dogs to Uvalde, Texas, to comfort bereaved families, first responders and traumatised survivors.

They barely had time to settle down after providing therapy at the Buffalo, New York shooting where 10 residents were killed and 3 hurt in a racially motivated shooting at a supermarket on May 14.

And in the past, they’ve been deployed to the Las Vegas, Nevada, 2017 shooting in which 60 people were killed and 411 wounded at a musical festival. And another was at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas in which 23 lives were taken and 23 injured. There’s no point making a list because it’s too long but let’s just say there’s a great need for therapy dogs such as Exon, a black labrador who is fond of belly rubs and part of the Canine Crisis Team (another organisation) sent to the Uvalde school massacre.

Campbell also said: “It’s something very abnormal for a community to have to face and to understand the why and how. We can’t answer those questions. The dogs recognise who needs them and get down to work. He looks at me like ‘See mom? I’ve got this'”

Personally, I believe that I do know the reason and I do have the answers like many others. There are too many guns in America. We know that guns don’t kill people but people who kill people. However, if somebody wants to strike out and be aggressive towards people and harm them, if guns are available, they will use them. If they aren’t available, they can’t use them. If they can’t use them then there won’t be so many gun related mass homicides.

I’m told that multiple canine comfort groups were working in Uvalde. The mission for the dogs is to harness the human-canine bond and its power to heal according to the report in The Times.

Children might talk to the dogs. They might cuddle them and bury their heads into their fur and hug them. Some therapy dogs have their own business cards which share details of themselves. Exon is described by Crisis Response Canines as “a fun-loving lab that is a sucker for a good belly rub”. He has helped survivors and families of the victims of the 2018 Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and also at a shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 2019.

Exon was at Uvalde with Tarik, a German shepherd together with Axel, a rottweiler and Maximus a shi tzu.

Becky Langer of Canine Crisis Response said: “People may be in that bad place but when you get a glimmer in their expression, you know they are reachable. They just have to look at that fuzzy face.”

Below are some more pages on working dogs.

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