Condo collapse first responders, victims' families visited by comfort dogs

Missing cat from Surfside, Florida collapse found alive wandering the wreckage

Fox News correspondent Charles Watson gives the latest updates from Surfside, Florida

Comfort dogs wearing blue vests that read “Please Pet Me” were brought in to help heal the families of victims at Champlain Towers South, as well as the first responders searching through the rubble.

“We’re very concerned about their mental health,” Bonnie Fear, the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry response coordinator, told NPR.

Nine golden retrievers from Florida, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina and Tennessee were deployed by the group to the oceanfront Florida condominium building, which collapsed on June 24. 

At least 97 people died in the collapse, and more are still missing. A cause has not yet been pinpointed, although there were several previous warnings of major structural damage at the 40-year-old building in Surfside.

The comfort dogs provide a balm amid the grief. 

“They’re just either shocked or pleased that we show up in time of crisis just for the people that are hurting and affected by the crisis,” Fear told NPR.

And the dogs are “just real sweet and pleasant when someone comes up to them,” she added.

The collapse left Americans around the county grappling with concerns about older residential buildings.

Since the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside and the demolition of the rest of the structure earlier this month, efforts have shifted from rescue to recovery as crews sift through the rubble. 

“Our prayer for [first responders] is that they make it through, they find what they need to mentally process and to know, in their minds, that they found someone’s loved one, they made a difference for the families,” Fear told NPR. “And I hope they hang on to that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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