Saugus Shooting Candlelight Vigil

Start Date: 11/17/2019


HOPE AACR teams received the invitation with help from our Route 91 Las Vegas shooting contact.

We were informed pretty quickly after the confirmation of our invitation by the City of Santa Clarita that they expected over 10,000 people at the Saugus Strong vigil for 15-year-old Gracie Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell, the two students killed in school shooting last Thursday. We were not disappointed in the number of people who attended. There were other therapy dog groups on site and some of our friends that work with the various law enforcement peer to peer support groups with their dogs.

We circulated among the crowd before and after the event, and listened respectfully to the emotional speeches during the event. With so many people in attendance we would not be able to visit with all and as this was a vigil we took into consideration the emotional environment and respectfully visited with people who wanted and seemed to need a visit. We let the dogs decide who to visit and below is something Sarah Jane wanted to share.

"I have heard of other HOPE members talk about a very special moment that they have experienced while on deployment, and last night we experienced one of those moments. A young man (perhaps a senior in high school) sat down on the ground about 30 feet away from us, head in his hands, sobbing loudly while a young woman crouched next to him and rubbed his back. I brought Maverick near the young man and had barely gestured asking if he wanted to pet the dog when he nodded and reached out to Maverick, who went right up to him, tail wagging gently, and went forehead to forehead with him. The young man clutched Maverick tightly, and within moments Maverick melted down, rolling onto his back in the young man's lap. The young man bent forward and hugged Maverick, rubbing his belly and kissing his head while Maverick's tail wagged. "

Star and Kelda both have similar stories and we are proud of all our dogs.

Around 8pm we walked over to a tree away from the crowd, but on the way to the memorial, and let the dogs and handlers rest on a blanket and drink some water. A well deserved little break for dogs and handlers.

As we went to the memorial, people came over to our dogs for some unconditional love.

Agency: City of Santa Clarita

Bari Boersma & Star, Sarah Jane & Chantal with Maverick