With the tragedy occurring in Newtown, the grieving families are being helped by a number of mental health professionals and other spiritual care givers to handle and overcome their deep crisis. Various organizations and counseling personnel’s were working with a number of families of not only the victims but also everyone who was going through trauma. But in the midst of these deep crisis it was not just human beings who were caregivers to the grieving families of Newtown, but also some specially trained dogs. Yes specially trained canines were pressed into counseling and care giving ministry during the time of grief and trauma. The Lutheran church has a ministry of operation called as K-9 Parish comfort dogs of Addisson, III, where there are five specially trained dogs and who with their handlers who came to Newtown a week ago to help people to deal creatively with their grief and crisis. The name of the dogs are Shami, Darien and Bamabas, Prince. How the dogs help in people in their grief process is that the dogs cuddle up with the adults and children and the people through these canines experience a sense of comfort and cozy feeling when cuddled up with the dogs. Thus they are slowly able to get over the shock and it also paves way to move forward in the creative dealing of the crisis. According to one of the parent, they saw their child smiling after a long time and these dogs are helping the children and the adults to laugh, and also helping some of their burden to be lifted up or dropped in another sense. When the dogs are even just lying along with the family, their very presence is soothing and sometimes a joyous experience. One of the unique aspects of these dogs is that they are trained in such a way that they will not bark especially when the time is that of grief and sorrow and this is a way to help the people to relieve pain. According to people working with this kind of dogs they say that the dogs have an amazing ability to zero in on the person in front of them that has the greatest need. They can have six or seven people sitting in front of them and they could go to the person who is experiencing pain and loss and the way they track the person in pain is an amazing thing to watch. There is also another person named Rick Kaplan who also does this type of ministry named canine angels, who helps people during the time of crisis and also during the time of pain and grief. Is int it strange that sometimes human being are also comforted more by animals than by the presence of another human being. It calls to light the fact that even animals has the deep sense of intuition and intellect to decipher and to meaningfully exchange intimacy and also forge meaningful relationship with human beings. More than the forging of relationship is the role that these canine are playing in alleviating and also helping people to over come their crisis. What does this canine teach us as they play the role of care givers?. If these canines can play their role as care givers during time of grief, I believe our Lord also wants each one of us to play a creative role as care givers to people and society who are going through pain and sorrow. Are we able to play that meaningful role in being effective care givers?
We are meditating on the theme “Transformed Living” and the portion that we shall use for our meditation is from Galatians 6. This is a portion where Paul exhorts believers about their role in helping the community of faith in their struggles and need. What is the role of a believer when he/she finds another person in need, a person who has fallen in sin and how does a believer lives with the joy that the Lord gives to him?. Paul states that one of the ministry that believers need to do is the ministry of restoration. People who fall down from grace, people who have slipped and fell in the pit of sin and are wanting someone to be with them so that they could experience forgiveness and also a sense of reconciliation and restoration in their life. Paul says that we are supposed to be with these people so that they experience restoration and a sense of being brought back to the main frame of life though they have sinned. Along with these kinds of people, Paul states that we are also supposed to be a burden bearers to people who are going through pain and crisis. Burden bearers are people who through their presence and ministry help other in carrying their pain and lessening their sorrow and through our deliberate encounter with these people they are able to look up to the Lord for the ultimate peace and hope that the Lord only can give. Somehow today we live in a world where each one is forced to carry his own burden and he/she feels that nobody cares for them in their time of need and grief. It is then that sometimes even the presence of dogs and ministry of canine angels becomes so relevant to the suffering humanity. Let us therefore consciously see that we will not leave another person alone in his/her suffering and play meaningful and creative role in our society, community and church to be effective care givers, just as the dogs did in Newtown.
Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla
Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla