Comfort dogs provide hope, encouragement after Orlando shooting

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Golden retrievers from suburban Northbrook left O'Hare Monday morning to bring love and light to a place experiencing great darkness.

The Chicago area is trying to help people in Orlando deal with this tragedy by sending teams of comfort dogs.

Golden retrievers from suburban Northbrook left O'Hare Monday morning to bring love and light to a place experiencing great darkness. Luna Mendez can attest to it - she lost two friends at Pulse nightclub.

"This is the best thing that everyone can do is get together," Mendez said as she broke down in tears. "Oh my God. We're getting love from everyone. Oh my God."

Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, and his team of caring canines arrived Monday morning. The Comfort Dog Ministry made it to counseling centers, and they will also be visiting families touched by the tragedy.

"They help people relax and calm down," Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, told ABC News.



"Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking," Hetzner said. "They're good listeners, they're non-judgmental, they're confidential."
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One Chicago group is sending help to Orlando.


Hetzner said the dogs take on the emotions of people in pain, giving them a safe place to feel hurt.

The program started in August 2008 with four dogs, Hetzner said, and now the group has expanded to include more than 100 dogs in 23 states.

The dogs go through an intensive training program with volunteers before they are sent out as comforters, Hetzner said.

Blue Star, who is organizing some of the community outreach in the Orlando LGBT community, is thankful they're here.

"I know that we'll stand tall and stand strong and with the support of like the Chicago community we'll be able to do it," Star said.

The team, which includes 19 people traveling with the 12 comfort dogs, will also be working in local hospitals with the injured victims and the first responders.

"When you pet the dogs, they pick up the emotions of people petting them, and it's the same way when you're talking to people and hearing their stories, you feel for them," said Hetzner.

Hetzner said he expects the dogs will stay at least a week but possibly longer depending on the community's needs.

ABC News contributed to this report.
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