This is beautiful. And useful.

Dogs to help mend hearts in Newtown

A team of golden retrievers made an 800-mile journey from the Chicago area to Newtown, Conn., over the weekend to comfort those affected by the recent school massacre.

Lutheran Church Charities deployed about 10 of the canines Saturday evening for residents who want to pet them while they talk or pray with the dog’s handler, said Tim Hetzner, president of the Addison-based organization.

“Dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone,” Hetzner said. “It creates the atmosphere for people to share.”

When the charities’ dogs are not responding to a national tragedy, they will often visit people in hospitals, nursing homes and parks. Each dog carries a business card with its name, Facebook page, twitter account and email so those that meet the canine can keep in touch

“The dogs have become the bridge,” said Lynn Buhrke, 66, who is a dog handler for a female golden retriever named Chewie. “People just sit down and talk to you.”

The dogs’ first stop Sunday in Newtown was Christ the King Lutheran Church, which is holding two funerals this week for two children who were slain during the shooting, Hetzner said.

“You could tell which ones …were really struggling with their grief because they were quiet,” Hetzner said. “They would pet the dog, and they would just be quiet.”

The dogs have been helpful even to those without children in Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the massacre occurred Friday, organizers said.

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