Golden comfort for shooting mourners

Last updated 16:35 21/12/2012

At a memorial for the victims of the shooting in Newtown, Golden Retrievers led by local volunteers provide some canine care to adults as well as children affected by the tragedy. Sarah Irwin reports.

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Comfort is hard come by for the families of the children killed in the Newtown shooting rampage, but a group of golden retriever owners are lending their best friends to help.

Last Friday, 28 people died, including 20 6-7-year-old children, when 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza, armed with a military-style assault rifle, first killed his mother and then broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire.

Already this week 14 funerals and 10 wakes have been held; memorial services too.

Outside one, a group of golden retriever owners brought their canines along to give children a welcomed comfort.

Organised by the Hudson Valley Golden Retriever Club, member Ann-maree Choffee said their dogs had a special sense.

"They're like magnets, they're drawn to the people that need them."

The mourners welcomed the comfort, one saying: "It's a very solemn time here, but it's a little ray of sunshine having the dogs here."

The mood around town was bleak, but one kept busy with much activity.

‘‘The first few days, all you heard were helicopters,’’ said Dr Joseph Young, who attended one funeral and would go to several more.

‘‘Now at my office all I hear is the rumble of motorcycle escorts and funeral processions going back and forth throughout the day.’’

At St Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Wednesday (local time), mourners arrived for six-year-old Caroline Previdi before the service had even ended for seven-year-old Daniel Barden.

‘‘It’s sad to see the little coffins,’’ said the Reverand John Inserra, a Catholic priest who worked at St Rose for years before transferring to a church in Greenwich.

‘‘It’s always hard to bury a child,’’ Inserra said.

‘‘God didn’t do this. God didn’t allow this. We allowed it. He said, ‘Send the little children to me.’ But he didn’t mean it this way.’’

Hundreds of firefighters formed a long blue line outside the church for Daniel’s funeral.

Two of his relatives work at the Fire Department of New York, and the gap-toothed redhead had wanted to join their ranks one day.

Across town, at Christ the King Lutheran Church, hundreds gathered for the funeral of Charlotte Helen Bacon, many wearing buttons picturing the six-year-old. 

In nearby Stratford, family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Victoria Soto, a teacher hailed as a hero for trying to shield her students, some of whom escaped. 

And in Woodbury, a line of colleagues, students and friends of slain Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, wrapped around the block to pay their respects to the administrator, who rushed the gunman in an effort to stop him and was killed. 

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended the service.

‘‘She loved kids. She’d do anything to help them and protect them,’’ said Joann Opulski.

The symbol of Christmas took on a new meaning in Newtown, where one memorial featured 26 Christmas trees — one for each victim at the school.

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Edward Kish said he bought a Christmas tree two days before the shooting but hasn’t had the heart to put it up or decorate it.

‘‘I’ll still put it up, probably,’’ he said.

‘‘It doesn’t seem right, and it doesn’t seem like Christmas.’’

- AP

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