updated 04/17/2013 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 04/17/2013 AT 6:00 PM ET
As Boston struggles to recover from the bombing that occurred during the city’s marathon on Monday, a group of furry friends is lending a paw to help with the healing process.
Comfort dogs trained by the Lutheran Church Charities have been deployed to the Massachusetts city to aid those affected by the tragedy. Three golden retrievers were flown in from the group’s home base in Addison, Ill., to join two more retrievers who were already on the East Coast following the December shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“People talk to the dogs – they’re like furry counselors,” Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, told TODAY.com. “It’s a chance to help bring some relief to people that are shaken up because of the bombings.” The pooches are set to remain in Boston through the end of the week, with plans to visit the area’s hospitals, as well.
Each of the organization’s 67 retrievers has undergone almost a year of service training, beginning at 6 weeks of age.
“They bring a calming effect to people,” Hetzner added, “and help them process the various emotions that they go through in times like this.”