Mercy the comfort dog returns from lifting spirits in Dayton

Mercy and her handler from Lutheran Church Charities arrived in Dayton soon after the mass shooting that left nine dead and several others injured.
Updated: Aug. 13, 2019 at 12:20 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A group from Louisville has just returned from a mission trip to Dayton, Ohio.

Mercy is a 6-year-old golden retriever who’s had more than 2,000 hours of training to become a comfort dog.

She works with the team at Lutheran Church Charities.

"People look at her and we can tell by the look in their eyes that they want to pet her,” Lutheran Church Charities spokesman Doug Netherton said. “We have to tell them, because she’s wearing a vest and most dogs with vests, you’re not supposed to pet. So we see the look in their eyes and say you may pet her.”

With ten dead and 27 injured, there was a city full of people in need of Mercy’s special kind of comfort.

Mercy works between 20 and 30 hours a week in Louisville, but was recently requested to visit a church in Dayton. The goal was to bring comfort to the community reeling from a mass shooting that left nine people dead.

“And they just start petting her and talking to her and talking to us,” Netherton said. “The nice thing about a dog is they don’t judge.”

Mercy is different from a service animal, a dog that performs a specific task for a specific person.

A comfort dog is trained to respond to everyone.

Mercy was one of seven comfort dogs in Dayton deployed by Lutheran Church Charities from around the region.

Her first deployment was in 2016 in Baton Rouge.

She has since worked shooting aftermaths in Marshall County and Parkland, Florida.

And each time, there is gratitude.

“And while talking to them they found out we were from Louisville or we have three dogs from the Chicago area,” Netherton said, “And they said wow, you traveled all this way to come see us.”

Mercy returned to Louisville Monday night where she will resume her regular duties.

She spends 20 to 30 hours a week visiting hospitals, schools, veterans homes, anywhere people would benefit from her special kind of comfort.

“It’s sobering as a person to go up, and it’s somewhat intimidating because you’re an outsider going into an area where people have been so personally affected,” Lutheran Church Charities spokesman Doug Netherton said. “But we find people are very appreciative for us coming.”

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