El Paso Walmart shooting: Therapy dogs comfort victims

EL PASO, Texas — As victims, friends and family continue to mourn after 20 people were killed in a shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, some four-legged friends are there for support.

WTVD reported that service dogs arrived from San Antonio from the Methodist Healthcare System to comfort patients and their families at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso. They are with Service Dogs Inc.

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"You will actually see them head straight for a person that's displaying the most distress," Lee Stanphill, handler of yellow lab Rudy, told KSAT. "It's pretty amazing to watch and it also just lightens everybody's spirits"

KSAT reported that Rudy would be joined by Chanel and Lady to support first responders in addition to hospital patients and their families.

Chanel's handler, Brandon Miller, told KSAT, "It's one of those things we hope we never have to go out for, but it's what these dogs are trained for."

Miller added that the dog's visits provide a chance for normalcy in hospital staff's day.

"Our first responders and hospital staff see so much every day. A lot of times, there's never really an opportunity to process that till the end of their shift," Miller said.

"The rate of suicides by first responders—firefighters, paramedics, law enforcement—has escalated from one every seven days to one a day," Methodist Health System said in a news release, according to KSAT. "These dogs can reach places in the heart no human can."

During their time in El Paso, the three dogs will also visit other hospitals and the family reunification center. They will also get down time to just be dogs.

"It's very taxing on them, especially when there's a lot of high emotions involved," Stanphill said. "They need their chance and opportunity to go home and be a dog and play and destress as well,"