Local church welcomes comfort dog

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church became the first church in Michigan to have a comfort dog.
Jude, an 18-month-old golden retriever, became part of the family Sunday during a Leash Ceremony at the Three Rivers church. The event was attended by six other comfort dogs and their handlers, most from Illinois.
The effort to land Jude was spearheaded by parishioner Gretchen Andersen. She said the benefit of a comfort dog centers on reaching out to the community as much as it is helping children in a stressful situation.
Trained by Richard Martin K-9 Ministries in Northbrook, Ill., Jude will live on a rotating schedule with one of nine St. Peter’s families that signed up and went through training to host him. On occasions when he makes a public appearance, however, Jude will be handled by Andersen.
Martin said he and the handlers of comfort dogs trained through Lutheran Church Charities are summoned on an as-needed basis through an emergency phone number on the charity’s website.
Beyond national trauma situations, however, the dogs also serve as local ambassadors, Andersen said. She noted Jude will make appearances at schools and public events, where people are encouraged to pet and interact with the friendly canine.

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