Red Cross Sends Crisis Dogs To Tech

April 23, 2007

While many are still trying to heal from the tragedy that has befallen the Virginia Tech campus, therapy dogs have been sent to try to help them cope through this hard time.

On the drill field at Virginia Tech Sunday, people visited the half circle of granite stones set up to remember the dead in last Monday's massacre. They left flowers, some left notes. Tears are still being be shed there.

Faces express just how hard the last week has been for this college community. A few feet from the memorial, Dawn Eischen and her dog Ginger keep an eye on what's going on. Ginger is a crisis therapy dog, part of a nationwide group that provides emotional support to victims of catastrophes. The Red Cross asked for a team to be sent to the Virginia Tech campus.

"Some of them have opened up to us and said some things that you, it kind of takes me by surprise sometimes what people will tell you when you're a complete stranger, but having the dogs here, people feel they can open up to you and they feel more comforted by it," said Eischen.

Grace Kao is a professor at the university. She was so moved by the therapy dogs that she invited Eischen to bring them to her class on Monday.

"I associate therapy dogs with so much kindness, and I know they've been in so many tragedies, and I guess I never thought that I would be someone who needed to hug a therapy dog," said Kao.

There's a lot that goes into becoming a therapy dog. The animals are trained for about a year before they are certified and before they're deployed to crisis situations such as the one at Virginia Tech.

Training and experience to provide comfort in times of need and the unconditional support only a pet can give.

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