Dogs Give Therapeutic Cuddles to Marysville After Shooting

Dogs also comforted people after Boston Marathon bombing, Sandy Hook shooting.

"We just let them pet the dog, hug the dog, lay on the dog many times," said Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities. "As they do that, many times they start talking to the dog."

Marysville-Pilchuck High School is closed this week because of the shooting, Hetzner said, but he and his colleagues will take the comfort dogs to places where students can be expected to hang out. On Monday night, the dogs arrived at Messiah Lutheran Church, about a mile from the high school, where residents got a chance to give them a hug and say hello. The dogs will spend a week in the town.

Pet therapy researcher Mary Jo Gilmer, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said dogs' unconditional willingness to be pet is a huge help for patients going through chemotherapy, grieving a sibling and more.

"A dog just cuddles up with them and doesn't say, 'You need to get on with your life,'" she said, adding that she's done research that shows children feel just as comforted by pets as they do by their friends when they lose a sibling.

"Just that unconditional willingness of the animal to be hugged {helps]," she said.

Dr. Daniel Cruz of the ABC News Medical Unit contributed reporting.