On December 14, 2012, we lost twenty six precious angels in our town
six beautiful adults and twenty wondrous and special children. The world was undeniably shaken to the core, and we in Sandy Hook and Newtown felt utterly helpless and lost in the face of such unbelievable horror and tragedy. We searched for answers, reasons, anything to make some sense out of such unspeakable cruelty. And we anxiously wondered how can we help, what can we do? As we slowly absorbed the reality of what had happened in our town, we quickly realized there was indeed a way we could help
and in what seemed like minutes, we had gathered together a group of local dogs and their owners, and we were at the primary memorial site in the center of the Village of Sandy Hook. There we stood as our dogs comforted hundreds of residents and visitors, adults and children alike. Each morning our dogs went in eager and alert, anxious to get to their people; and each afternoon they came home tired and carried with them the sorrow they had felt throughout the day. In the days immediately following the tragedy, these dogs tirelessly gave love and comfort to hundreds
first responders, fire men and women, police men and women, teachers, parents, grandparents and children of all ages. And each day, as so many people hung on to them, crying into their fur, the dogs said, Yes, hold on to me; I will bring you comfort and strength.
From this, the Newtown-Strong Therapy Dogs began simply and slowly, as a sub-group of the Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. Bright & Beautiful certified our first two teams shortly after the tragedy, and our next two teams a few weeks later. Since beginning our group in December 2012, we have trained and certified over 30 new handlers and their dogs (as of June 2017), and we are just beginning another Handlers' course, participants of which will be ready to take their certification testing in about three months.
Our members are heavily involved in Newtown and Sandy Hook, and our surrounding towns as well. Because of where we live, we are mostly asked to work with children, but we also do private visits to the elderly who live at home, as well as to assisted living and convalescent environments. We also attend funerals and wakes, when asked. We visit with the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts during meetings, with local colleges, high schools, and middle and elementary schools as well. Please feel free to contact us, should you like a visit with our dogs. We can be contacted at: Caseyberry@aol.com. And please like our page on Facebook: Newtown-Strong Therapy Dogs.
-- Ann Marie Cioffi, MA, Psy., Director, Newtown-Strong Therapy Dogs