How Disaster Stress Relief Dogs Can Help Heal A Grieving Community

therapy dogsTherapy dogs come in many shapes and sizes. Some even have their own specialty. Disaster stress relief dogs, in particular, have one of the most challenging tasks – to bring comfort to those who been through a terrible ordeal. Be it a natural disaster or a man-made tragedy, these dogs are on the scene helping victims cope with their loss and listen to their grief without uttering a single word. They have played an important role in the recovery from hurricanes, bombings and mass shootings.

The Role of a Disaster Stress Relief Dog

Disaster stress relief dogs serve as furry counselors. In many cases, they arrive on the disaster scene just hours after the event happens and provide victims with a shoulder to cry on. Their job is to listen and receive plenty of hugs and cuddles.

Stress relief dogs are incredibly patient and are comfortable with being petted by strangers. Because it is not uncommon for these dogs to encounter distraught victims, they must be gentle and able to handle difficult situations and tense environments. They have a basic level of obedience training but undergo further training to help them remain calm amongst people with heightened emotion.

It’s not just the victims of disasters and their relatives that benefit from these dogs. Emergency service personnel are also affected by the circumstances they have to work in, and they too appreciate the calm affection of a stress relief dog.

Training and Certification

More often than not, therapy dog organizations are the ones who sponsor visits to disaster sites. These organizations have a special division of dogs specially trained to work with disaster victims and the unique situations they are in. These dogs must be ready to handle just about anything and do so without becoming stressed and anxious. Rigorous testing is done to ensure that dogs are confident and calm enough to handle challenging situations that can sometimes be unpredictable.

The Benefits of Disaster Stress Relief Dogs

There is something incredibly comforting about dogs, and comfort is the one thing that disaster victims need most. It’s almost impossible not to feel calm and less anxious when in their presence and they are great listeners during a person’s time of need. It is not uncommon for victims to speak directly to the dogs as if they were a counselor. Dogs expect nothing in return and are happy to listen. The emotional release that victims get from being able to talk to disaster stress relief dogs is an important part of the grieving process.

Research also shows that service dogs reduce stress and can lower blood pressure. Some evidence also suggests that dogs may be empathetic towards humans, which can provide great comfort to those who are going through a difficult time. It is not uncommon for dogs to nuzzle or lick a person with tears in their eyes.

Dogs have been bringing comfort and companionship to humans for centuries. Their ability to provide unconditional love while practicing incredible patience is a big part of the reason why these dogs are able to bring some relief and happiness to those who have suffered through a great tragedy.

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Dr. Susan Wright, DVM shares her love of dogs through freelance writing on topics that teach owners how to be better caregivers and friends to their loyal companions.