Specially trained dogs travel to El Paso to comfort first responders and medical staff after mass shooting

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On Saturday, a gunman killed 22 and wounded dozens in a shooting in El Paso, Texas. The next day, a team of specially trained “facility dogs” arrived to help provide comfort to those impacted by the traumatic event.

Three dogs traveled from San Antonio, Texas, this weekend to spend time with first responders, paramedics and hospital staff who are working with the shooting victims, Joshua Lee, the Community Engagement Coordinator for Service Dogs Inc., told CBS News. 

The nonprofit, which trained the pups, “builds better lives for Texans overcoming challenges through partnerships with custom trained Assistance Dogs, provided free-of-charge,” according to its Facebook page. It relies on public support to fund the training.

The pups are trained as “facility dogs,” meaning they are connected with a facility — in this case, the Methodist Healthcare System in San Antonio. While the dogs are different than therapy dogs and service dogs, they are trained at “the same level of good behavior that we do our Service Dogs, specifically excellent behavior in public,” said Lee.

The pups, Chanel, Lady and Rudy, have been hard at work since they arrived, with the hospital system’s Facebook page posting regular updates featuring the dogs posing with first responders. One post shows two of the dogs posing next to three men who appear to be firefighters on a fire truck.

“They are already providing their unconditional love and support to first responders helping them cope through this traumatic time,” a Facebook post reads. 

The dogs provide relief for the first responders and emergency medical personnel during “situations of excess stress, trauma and grief,” said Lee.”They provide a way for them to de-escalate and process the grief that comes with their incredibly difficult jobs and the sometimes horrendous things they witness and have to cope with.” 

Lee said the dogs, who live with their handlers, will be in the city through Friday providing comfort to those on the front lines of the shooting aftermath.

Well-trained canines are regularly used to help people who have experienced trauma. Fourteen dogs comforted the teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the aftermath of last year’s massacre in Parkland, Florida, CBS Miami reported. The dogs were so beloved, they were even honored in the school yearbook. After the Orlando nightclub shooting, a pack of 12 golden retriever K-9 Comfort Dogs were deployed to help victims of the tragedy feel safe.

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