Therapy dogs help comfort Buffalo residents after shooting

Northeast

(Reuters) — A volunteer team of professional crisis counselors has traveled with their comfort dogs to Buffalo, New York, to help locals deal with the trauma of the recent shooting at a nearby supermarket.

“The dogs that we work with are nonjudgmental,” said Janice Campbell, founder and president of Tri-State Canine Response Team, in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday. “They’ll be able to meet the person after something traumatic has happened, to be able to help them de-stress, to be able to give them support in a time where they need to be able to start to communicate and discuss how they’re feeling and what they’ve gone through.”

The dogs were invited to come to New York days after an 18-year-old white man allegedly shot 13 people, killing 10, in a Tops Friendly Market.

Authorities say the gunman carried out an act of “racially motivated violent extremism,” and specifically targeted Black people.

On Tuesday afternoon, with the store where the shooting took place closed due to ongoing investigation, the Tri-State Canine Response Team went to a Tops Friendly Market 7 miles away from the shooting site. Before that, they visited several people who took 911 calls on the day of the shooting, as well as a memorial site in the community. Their last stop was a local firehouse.

“Many community members now know us, and of course our dogs, and treat us as one of their own,” the Tri-State Canine Response Team said on Facebook.

It’s the Tri-State Canine Response Team’s 11th deployment, with the first being following the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

Members of the team hailed from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, and worked with emergency responders, victims’ families and anyone who needed comfort after the harrowing events.

“Logan is smart, intelligent and friendly. Because he’s helping me right now,” Josh Redfield, an employee at the Tops near the site of the shooting, said about a dog he met. “Man’s best friend. They protect you. And they just make you feel good, like right now. I’m smiling.”

Another customer and a local resident, Ray Williams, agreed.

“Yeah, dogs will help you with everything,” he said. “Look at him. He is very good. Very good.”

The Tri-State Canine Response Team is staying in Buffalo at least until Friday, Campbell said.

It’s raising money for Mental Health Awareness Month so that the team is able to travel when needed.

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