LONGMONT -- After another long day of listening to devastating stories from flood victims, FEMA worker Edith Lovell was happy to see her furry friend Cadie.
Cadie, a golden retriever, is one of the therapy dogs of Boulder County that has visited Longmont's Disaster Recovery Center at Twin Peaks Mall every day since it opened about six weeks ago following the flood.
"I've worked for FEMA for 13 years and I'm so impressed with this community," said Lovell, who is the manager of the recovery center. "I have never experienced a community who not only took care of the victims but who cares for the workers too. It's touching."
About five volunteers and their pets visit the center daily to give flood victims, volunteers and workers a break from the stress and challenges they are facing during recovery.
The group began visiting the Disaster Recovery Center in Lyons on Thursday and is talking to representatives about working with the Boulder center soon.
Daryl Holle, one of the volunteer coordinators for the group, said therapy dogs provide comfort to victims and workers who are dealing with tragedy.
"Therapy dogs love to be petted and played with and they give a warm feeling," Holle said. "Research shows that they can lower your blood pressure with their calm demeanor."
The dogs are a welcome distraction for FEMA workers who have been away from their families and their own pets for the past six weeks.
The group is made up of volunteers from therapy dog programs at four hospitals in Boulder County -- Avista Animal Helpers at Avista Hospital at Louisville; Boulder Community Canine Corps at Boulder Community Hospital in Boulder; Exempla Caring Canines at Exempla in Lafayette; and Longmont Therapy Animals In Loving Service (TAILS) in Longmont.
There are about 145 therapy dogs between the four hospitals, Holle said.
Therapy Dogs of Boulder County was started as an "experiment" to determine how the group could be utilized in a disaster situation, Holle said.
Eventually, he is hoping to launch a permanent disaster team that would be based in Boulder County and travel to areas in need with therapy dogs.
Whitney Bryen can be reached at 303-684-5274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.