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Dogs providing support, comfort for Navy Yard employees

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WASHINGTON -

As the last of the victims of the Navy Yard mass shooting are buried, their co-workers are now faced with the task of moving on. While the Navy has provided teams of counselors and chaplains, they have also invited some special guests.

Banyon, a black Labrador Retriever, and his friends are making the rounds at the Washington Navy Yard. They are traveling here from up and down the East Coast to help employees trying to cope with the horrific shootings on September 16.

“I see people very much in business mode or maybe worried about things, and the moment that they sort of soften up and lighten up and see him, it's really wonderful,” explains Janet Velenovsky, a regional director with HOPE.

Velenovsky spent the day walking around the installation with her Border Collie, Oscar.

Chris Eagan, an employee at the Navy Yard, says the dogs are a welcome sight.

“Thank you for bringing him. It’s so important. They are just beautiful and very healing, and having two dogs myself, I know how important and how much they bring to your soul,” he says.

Wherever they go, they are spreading some much needed smiles and some comfort.

Joanne Hwang, a Navy Yard employee, says while operation has returned to normal, the mood is still rather somber. She was so happy to see the dogs.

“I think it's great,” says Hwang. “I think there are a lot of people like me in the base who light up at the sight of a dog. Given what happened on the base, it’s good for morale.”

The Navy is also offering more traditional help. They have set up an Emergency Family Assistance Center, a place where employees can come to talk to counselors and chaplains.

“Life continues to go on and we continue to have families that need us and work that needs us and what we know is that most people are going to get better,” explains Commander Ingrid Pauli, a member of special response team brought in to provide emotional “first-aid.”

But in the meantime, the Navy is willing to do whatever it takes to restore a sense of peace that once surrounded the Navy Yard.

For more information on HOPE and how you can help, go to http://hopeaacr.org/


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