The Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) Comfort Dogs are well known for providing solace to people after mass shootings. But today, after a senseless act of violence, it’s some of these dogs and their handlers who will need the comforting.
During a random shooting in Joplin, Mo., around 5 a.m., two dogs and three people were shot as they rode in a van on their way to an LCC Comfort Dogs meeting in Saint Louis.
Two comfort dogs, both Golden Retrievers, were injured. Louie was shot in the neck and Jackson was shot through his ear flap.
Kenneth Eby, who was driving, was shot multiple times and is in critical but stable condition, the Joplin Globe reports. Heidi Gustin was shot in the arm and is in serious but stable condition. Karen Mech, struck by shrapnel and glass, was treated for minor injuries.
A couple in another vehicle were also shot. The man is in serious but stable condition, and the woman had minor injuries.
Tom S. Mourning II, the 26-year-old suspect, fired at the vehicles as he was driving. He has been taken into custody, the Jackson Globe reports. A rifle and handgun were found in his car.
“This came out of the blue and all of a sudden people were shot and going to the hospital,” Jason Glaskey, head of Immanuel Lutheran Church’s comfort dog ministry, told the Globe.
Eby’s wife, Vicki, who was not injured, told ABC News her husband had been shot in the lung. “It was so dark, we didn’t know what was happening,” she said. “If they hadn’t gotten him to the hospital when they did, he wouldn’t be here.”
Louie is recovering after surgery to remove the bullet from his neck. “I’m one sore pup who’s glad to be out of surgery and resting,” says a post on his Facebook page this afternoon. “Please pray for my people as they recover in the hospital (especially Ken who is in critical care), for the other shooting victims, and for my brother Jackson Comfort Dog, who is already home after being shot in the ear flap.”
“We are very grateful that these victims do not appear to have life-threatening wounds because of this act,” Joplin Mayor Mike Seibert said at a press conference today.
‘I’m Friendly. Please Pet Me.’
LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, based in Northbrook, Ill., sends therapy dogs from around the U.S. to areas where tragedies and disasters have occurred, as well as to local churches, hospitals and nursing homes.
The dogs are available for anyone who needs a hug or absorbent fur for their tears. Their vests have the invitation, “I’m Friendly. Please pet me.”
To make a donation to help pay the travel expenses to bring LCC dogs to visit their brethren in Joplin, visit the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs website.
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