Crisis dogs from TN called to comfort Orlando shooting victims - WSMV News 4

Crisis dogs from TN called to comfort Orlando shooting victims

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Crisis response canines will head to Orlando for support in the wake of a mass shooting. (WSMV) Crisis response canines will head to Orlando for support in the wake of a mass shooting. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

As the Orlando community tries to heal after the massacre nearly two weeks ago, some support is coming their way in an unexpected form from Tennessee.

Crisis response canines are specially trained dogs that have the skills to interact with strangers at the worst times of their lives. There's a new volunteer team in Middle Tennessee ready to comfort in emergencies as severe as Orlando.

Kinsey and Alexis work with their handlers as part of a volunteer team with HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, and they are the first team in Middle Tennessee.

"As you can see she calms down very easy. That is what she's supposed to do," said Cheryl Sague, a crisis response volunteer who works with Kinsey.

The dogs are trained for high-stress situations to comfort and encourage at the worst times, and right now, that is in Orlando.

"Lynn is our state coordinator and she is based out in East Tennessee. They are in Orlando now with their team members," said Jenyfer Lindahl, a crisis response volunteer who works with Alexis.

Forty-nine people were killed at a gay night club on June 12, and 53 more were injured in what police call the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. A call went out across the Southeast for crisis response volunteer teams in the days following.

"It can be something that only affects one person or it can be something that affects like Orlando or a nation," said Sague. "So there's never an event that's too small or there's never an event that's too large."

Both canine and volunteer have to be ready for any situation. They are certified to deal with intense emotions, volunteers said.

"We see everything from happiness to overwhelming relief," said Lindahl. "People have thrown themselves on our dogs and cried. They've thrown themselves on us and cried."

They never know what they will find, but one thing is constant for the trauma victims.

"They're nonjudgmental. They're here for you," Lindahl said.

Sague and Lindahl said they are in contact with Sumner and Davidson county emergency agencies in case the agencies call for their services.

The teams are nationwide and a nonprofit organization.

Volunteers said they are able to travel around the state or country either paying their own way or through donations.

Click here for more information about the organization.

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