NORTHBROOK, Ill. - In a room full of distractions, 6-month-old puppies practice following their handler, which is not always easy with strange noises like a shaking tarp and stuffed toys on the ground.
FOX 32 Chicago watched one of many sessions for Damascus and Saul, comfort dogs in training with the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry in Northbrook.
"A lot of it is getting their focus, getting their attention, teaching them to look at us. But also explore the world so that things aren't scary," explained Becky Kolzow, LCC Canine Staff Trainer.
Being calm is key, because the dogs will visit schools, nursing homes and even scenes of overwhelming heartbreak.
"The fact that they can go bring some joy to someone, a smile to someone's face that is going through their darkest times, it makes it all worth it," said Kolzow.
LCC comfort dogs are back in Uvalde, Texas for the start of school. They also helped in Highland Park after the parade shooting.
"We bring the dogs there because they bring a comforting presence with them and serve as a bridge for our ministry. It's what we do we find people in need and bring them comfort. And when I do that, it's just kind of amazing to see people's faces when they're the sorrow parts for just a minute," said Casey Meadows, LCC staff trainer.
Meadows showed us how the dogs put their paws on someone's lap for "the comfort dog hug," where someone who's stressed or grieving can then embrace the dog.
"They're not judging. They're not even asking questions. They're just present and providing love," said Meadows.
LCC has 130 comfort dogs in 26 states.
After 2,000 hours of training, these puppies will join the ranks and try to show people on their darkest days that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.