The Role of Therapy Dogs in Times of Tragedy

In a local news article covering the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach municipal center, I read that the City of Virginia Beach arranged for therapy dogs to be on site for employees to connect with in the days following the tragedy.

It’s amazing how therapeutic petting a dog can be for victims of trauma—and for those who have witnessed traumatic events, like the unimaginable one that unfolded May 31 here in our region. These specially trained dogs provide psychological and physiological therapy to people in need and have been known to provide life-altering help to people experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following events such as these.

Last year, therapy dogs were on site at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School when students returned to school after the 2018 shooting, and they comforted survivors of the 2018 Harvest Festival tragedy in Las Vegas. Therapy dogs are even used in court rooms, when victims are testifying against their perpetrators.

Just last month, our staff performed free eye screenings on over a dozen therapy dogs who visit young patients at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters through its “Buddy Brigade” program. We also examined the eyes of nine therapy horses that are part of the Untamed Spirit therapeutic riding program in Virginia Beach. Through these partnerships, and from seeing other therapy animals at our practice, we know first-hand how critical it is for these animals to be in top physical shape—including their eyes.

If you would like to know more about therapy dogs, please visit the Alliance of Therapy Dogs at www.therapydogs.com. For help in providing assistance to individuals following a traumatic event, I hope you will reach out to any of the wonderful local organizations that serve our area.

  • Service Dogs of Virginia – a non-profit organization that raises, trains and places dogs to assist people with disabilities
  • Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters HKD Buddy Brigade – for in-hospital visits at CHKD
  • Pawsitive Reading with Therapy Dogs – a City of Virginia Beach program for children in K-5, who want to improve their reading skills by reading to therapy dogs

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