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NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - There are only 13 hours of driving between the Grand Strand and Newtown, CT.
Canine Angels, a service providing free service dogs for eligible disabled veterans on the Grand Strand, made the trip to offer comfort and support to the community rocked by tragedy.
"Our Friday to Sunday visit to this most courageous town was rewarding on so many levels, both to the children and families who took comfort in our service Angels, and to me personally, and, indeed, to each and every one of the nine dogs who made the trip," said President Rick Kaplan on the Canine Angels Facebook page
The nine dogs, Fred, King, Diva, Leroy, Junior, Ryder, Zoe, Abbi, and Bobo, went to Newtown to meet a crowd of people in pain, but their loving nature brought laughter and joy.
Mr. Kaplan believes the dogs were petted by over 10,000 people, touching their lives in return.
"We went to Newtown to offer respite and comfort to those in need, and to represent you, the people of the Carolinas, to say that we all are suffering from this horrific tragedy. We were gloriously accepted by everyone everywhere, and your support of us was universally appreciated, as it made our trip possible," Rick explains.
Rick adds that one of the Newtown residents who sought comfort from the dogs lost her son in the school shooting. The mother said she felt guilty, because her hour spent with the golden retriever was the first time she felt a little relief.
"You just can't deal with that type of pain 24/7. You can't. You'll have a collapse, you'll have a break down. I told her, 'it's ok. That's what the dogs are here for, just pet him and take a break,'" recalls Mr. Kaplan.
One of the young children who played with the Canine Angels was in the school on that fateful day and lost many classmates.
"He's a kid, he doesn't really get it. He understands the word 'passed away,' but he doesn't really get it, that he's never going to come back," says Mr. Kaplan.
He is inspired by how the community is supporting each other, but knows their healing is far from over.
The group plans to return to Newtown in the new year, "When all the tumult is over, and the real low point hits home, and the healing begins."