The entire nation and world have been extraordinarily supportive in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy 10 days ago, and even man's best friend has being playing a part.
St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs were deployed at the first public vigil soon after the horrific crash, which claimed 16 lives. The carefully-selected pets and their handlers remain on standby for duty to help those in ongoing distress.
“Dogs are amazing animals; they can just put a smile on your face,” St. John Ambulance Director of Community Services Gail Kuhn told paNOW. “A hug with one of our dogs, and just them being there can help people cope with distress.”
Four therapy dog teams were dispatched to the vigil in Humboldt April 8, Kuhn said. One was assigned to family members, she said, another was assigned to a midget hockey team that was really struggling with the incident, and the other two mingled with the crowd and helped as needed.
“A dog went to those players and they each touched and hugged him and held hands with the handler," Kuhn said. “In one case, a girl was really sobbing and sobbing and she could hardly breathe, but a little while with the dog and she was able to control herself.”
Kuhn said the dogs have been used constantly in the emergency and intensive-care units at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon since the crash. The dogs have been available for family, friends, staff and, in some cases, the patients themselves. Kuhn said one of the injured said the visit from a dog made the biggest impression on them, despite visits from various high-profile guests and dignitaries.
“These dogs are providing care," she said. "There’s a lot of research going on to the emotional and physical end of how these dogs are helping people cope."
Kuhn said the therapy dogs are available on request for any occasion where attendees need support. Anyone who has a dog - preferably an animal over two years old and good with crowds - can make an application to St. John Ambulance to become a therapy dog team, Kuhn said.
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