PHOTOS: Therapy dogs to offer comfort after Orlando shooting
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."
Hetzner 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.
"We are reaching out to anyone that has been affected by this rather directly or indirectly," Hetzner said.
Hetzner said the dogs take on the emotions of people in pain, giving them a safe place to feel hurt. 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.
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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.
Click here for full coverage on the deadly mass shooting in Orlando.