Colorado comfort dog returns home after visit with Parkland survivors

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Cubby is a bit of a local celebrity in Larimer County.

The 4-year-old golden retriever can be seen everywhere from hospitals to nursing homes, preschools and sporting goods stores.

“We’re there for an hour and you’re like with a celebrity. They notice the dog and it’s just a great ministry to talk to people,” Bonnie Fear said.

Fear is considered the “Top Dog” of the comfort dog ministry program at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Collins.

In that role, she leads a team of 21 volunteers that help Cubby do what she does.

“We use the dog as our bridge to reach people that are hurting,” Fear said.

Cubby was bred and trained in Illinois through Lutheran Church Charities. She is the only church comfort dog in Colorado.

“We show up with the dog and people open up, people talk. It’s that easy,” Fear said.

It wasn’t an easy road for Cubby though. Starting at 8 weeks old, she has been through more than 2,000 hours of training to become a working dog.

Now, she proudly sports a blue vest that says “please pet me."

“She has what I call her signature move,” Fear said. “If she feels people are hurting, she does a very gentle sweet paw like on the hand or the arm.

That tenderness has earned Cubby a reputation nationwide.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been invited to too many tragedies in this country,” Fear said.

Cubby was deployed to the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, Hurricane Harvey in Houston, and, most recently, to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“We were the second group of dogs to be invited down to Parkland, Florida, to welcome the students back,” Fear said.

Cubby went classroom to classroom visiting with survivors. She also made house calls to wounded students who were unable to return to school.

“They would just surround her. They were laying on her,” Fear said. “One teacher, we went and she was really struggling and just Cubby being there brought relief to her.”

The comfort dogs don’t approach anyone. Instead, they wait for people in need to come to them.

At that point they’re available to pet, cuddle and snuggle. And, they almost always get smiles in return.

“It’s just that sweet, (sigh). You can hear that sigh of relief. That whatever they were hanging onto is gone,” Fear said.

Cubby has her own Facebook page.

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