JOPLIN, Mo. — A golden retriever that was among two dogs and six people injured when a man opened fire in Joplin is preparing to return to work providing comfort to victims of tragedies and disasters.

The dog, named Louie, was hit in the neck, while another dog, Jackson, suffered a graze wound to his ear, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/2cGcuf5 ). The retrievers are part of a church’s comfort dog ministry and were headed to St. Louis in a van for training when gunfire erupted Aug. 13. Four people in the van were hurt, along with a couple in another vehicle.

Multiple felony charges have been filed against Tom Mourning II, 26, of Joplin. Tom Mourning Sr. said his son has mental health issues and likely was suffering a psychotic episode during the shooting.

The two dogs were sent to Joplin after the deadly 2011 tornado and have provided comfort after several tragedies, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

Louie’s recovery got a test Tuesday when he visited a Christian school in Joplin, stopping for about half an hour in a seventh- and eighth-grade classroom. It was the first time since the shooting that he donned his blue service vest.

Handler Jason Glaskey said Louie didn’t wince in pain when students touched the part of his neck where the dog was shot.

“When people are petting him, they don’t often realize that they are touching where he was injured,” said Glaskey, director of Christian education at Immanuel Lutheran Church and the leader of its comfort dog ministry.

Because Jackson’s wound was less severe, Glaskey said, he was able to start rehabilitation earlier. But Louie’s wound required some intensive treatment.

Glaskey said he’s going slowly with Louie and the dog won’t go back to work until he’s fully healed.

“No backward steps,” Glaskey said. “We want to get back to this ministry of sharing mercy, compassion and comfort to those in need.”

The healing of the dogs is one part of healing steps affecting the entire congregation, Glaskey said. The church members who were shot are also recovering physically and emotionally.

“There are a lot of people recouping,” Glaskey said, adding that it will be awhile before the comfort dog workers are ready to do their jobs again. “A lot of people are going to ask about what they went through, and it’s going to be awhile before they’ll be OK answering that.”


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

VIAThe Associated Press
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