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Therapy dog helps first responders heal after Chesapeake mass shooting

Following the mass shooting at a Chesapeake Walmart, a special team of therapy dogs traveled to Hampton Roads to console the community and victims.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — In the wake of the mass shooting in Chesapeake, a special team of therapy dogs traveled to the area to console the community and victims.

When tragedy strikes, it’s often hard to find the right words for comfort. That’s where Solomon the golden retriever comes in.

“It’s a simple thing to say he is just a dog, but I think there is a lot of power in that,” said Team Solomon handler Philip Forgit.

Solomon calls King of Glory Church in Williamsburg home and is one of several dogs in the Lutheran Church Charities network that deployed to support after the shooting in Chesapeake.

“It is an unconditional love, comfort and peace that I think he brings,” said Team Solomon handler Linda Falck.

Falck and Forgit traveled with Solomon to the memorial by Walmart.

“It is really great to see people just kind of loving on the dog,” Forgit said. “There is a moment they realize oh, a break, a break from all this chaos.”

Solomon made a special stop to sit with Chesapeake Fire and Rescue crews that responded to the horrific scene.

“My experience with fire, EMT, police, typically they don’t usually talk about what is happening and they didn’t that day,” Forgit said. “But they loved the dog, and they love to pet the dog and hold the dog.”

Forgit said Solomon's presence allows first responders a moment of peace.

“One gentleman just held the dog, didn’t say anything to us, may have said something to Solomon, but just held the dog,” Forgit said. “Whatever he was holding in, he was holding that dog and letting it out.”

Solomon has 2,000 hours of training under his belt at just three years old.

“Between UVA and Chesapeake, those are the two biggest events we have been to,” said Team Solomon manager Trish Freshwater.

Handlers on Team Solomon said their pup acts as a bridge between tragedy and healing.

“You bring Solomon in, and Solomon becomes that bridge and they are able to release that emotion, and they are able to start the healing process,” Freshwater said.

“People push their loss way deep down,” Forgit said. “I think Solomon allows them to let that up and out a little bit.”

Spokesmen for the Chesapeake Fire Department and Chesapeake Police Department told 13News Now the city offers resources to first responders through their Employee Assistance Program. They said each department also has a peer support program, where specially trained department personnel comfort during high-stress incidents.

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