TOLEDO, Ohio — Studies have shown that nearly 93% of dog owners in the U.S. say their dog has made them a better person in at least one way. That's according to BarkBox, a monthly box of goodies for dogs and their humans. For three Toledo dogs, they're helping more than just their owners.
Anna, Ezra and Claudia belong to Trinity Lutheran Church and School. It's through the national program, Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Ministries, bringing hope to not only people right here in the area but also thousands of miles away.
Toledo's comfort dogs, Anna and Claudia, do very similar things. You can find them creating smiles at police and fire stations, hospitals and visiting local students.
Ezra was deployed here to work in the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office. He sits primarily with children who are victims of crime and he'll stay there until he's no longer needed in court.
"Ezra can walk in that building, in the courthouse, and he will literally change the attitude in that building," said Ezra's caregiver and handler, Mack Borders. "If we walk into a room and there's a lot of tension, and in the victim witness room there is a lot of tension always, Ezra will find that one person that needs him the most."
Claudia has been a comfort dog for just over a year now and she quickly learned the ropes. Her caregiver and handler, Erin Marcis, said one of her favorite things is interacting with kids.
She loves it so much, she was deployed to Uvalde to comfort students going back to school following the mass shooting back in May. Taking with her, some much needed 'hope.'
"When we were in Texas for instance, just the thought that someone from Ohio would drive down there to be with them, gives them hope that there are good people in the world," explained Top Dog of the program, Nancy Borders.
This bright, fluffy trio is leaving imprints on people thousands of miles away. So, you can only imagine how they make people feel back at home.
"All of a sudden, you'll hear somebody from across the parking lot say, 'is that Anna? Is that Anna? Oh my gosh, I haven't seen her in years!' It's just so cool when you can have that response from people," said Anna's caregiver and handler, Frank Shirley Jr.
Anna is considered the 'old soul' of the group bringing comfort to people now for seven years. But when the blue vest comes off, play time is on.
"So, we have to give them an equal amount of time off-duty," explained Borders. "Playtime typically is one of their rewards, a massage is another reward."
She said those rewards are oftentimes a great need because the dogs can absorb all the emotion from those they're helping. Giving them a little refresher makes sure they can keep coming back.
All three dogs are very active on social media. To stay up to date with their latest adventures, check them out on social media:
Facebook: @K9Comfort, @AnnaComfortDog, @EzraComfortDog, @ComfortDogClaudia
Twitter: @K9ComfortDogs, @LCCK9Anna
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