K-9 Comfort Dogs
K-9 Comfort Dogs

12 Photos of Therapy Dogs Providing Comfort After Tragedies

K-9 Comfort Dogs
K-9 Comfort Dogs

One of the most remarkable things about the recent Boston bombings was how kind people were during the crisis—but gentle words and hugs aren’t always enough to comfort the victims of this kind of disaster.

K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs via Facebook

That’s why the folks of K9 Parish Comfort Dogs and other organizations have brought their canine friends to help those who could use some unconditional love right now.

Jessica Testa/BuzzFeed

You can read more about the project and the dogs involved, as well as see more adorable pictures of the pups providing their service, over at BuzzFeed.

K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs via Facebook

But this certainly isn’t the first time dogs have helped disaster victims deal with their traumatic experiences. K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs also visited the young survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Two of the dogs even stayed behind with the kids at the school, although they both visited Boston with the Parish’s other dogs this week since Sandy Hook Elementary was on Spring Break.

Perhaps because many of the victims of the Newtown shooting were so young, the event attracted more therapy dogs than practically any other disaster. 

John Moore/Getty Images

Therapy dogs were also present at the streetside memorial held for the shooting victims, which made the services easier for the children who knew the victims. In fact, during the service itself, attendees of all ages were given plush toy dogs to cuddle and squeeze during the emotional event.

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Dogs were also brought in at the memorial for the Virginia Tech shooting in April of 2007. In this case, the dogs were provided with the help of Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response, who was specifically requested by the Red Cross.

Ira Block/National Geographic/Getty Images

Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response was one of the many groups to provide therapy dogs to help survivors and emergency workers in the aftermath of 9/11.

Dogs also aided New York residents who were affected by the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) sent comfort dogs, like Ladle, to aid the preschoolers of St. Peter's Lutheran School, Brooklyn, N.Y.

John Moore/Getty Images

While the deaths might not have all occurred at once, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars took the lives of thousands of soldiers. To help 500 children and teen survivors of these veterans deal with their grief, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors put together a 'Good Grief Camp' that, along with counseling and other services, provided therapy dogs to aid in the healing process.

ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

While combat dogs may get more attention, the U.S. military also employs therapy dogs. Zeke here is a five year old labrador retriever who has a rank of Sergeant First Class for his services at the combat stress clinic on the Kandahar military base in southern Afghanistan. The government therapy dog program started in 2007 to help those serving in Iraq receive the psychological benefits that only animals can provide.

Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Therapy dogs can even help crime victims better cope with their trauma so they can testify more easily. That’s why Abby works right beside her owner Sandy Sylvester, a prosecutor at the Prince William County Courthouse in Virginia.

Eager to support these efforts? Well, if you’re in the Boston area and have a kind, well-behaved dog, you can always get him or her certified and bring your own pooch to comfort the survivors. But everyone else can help by donating to the K9 Parish Comfort Dog’s Boston travel expense fund or to HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response.

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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