CAPE CORAL, FL - Our coverage of Hurricane Ian’s aftermath continues. Seeing all this devastation and the nonstop work hours to help people definitely takes its tolls on first responders. To help bring at least some relief for them, a group of therapy dogs are here to help.  

Local first responders and those traveling down to southwest Florida to help Hurricane Ian victims, have been working almost nonstop. And these dogs are they’re also working, but in a different way. 

“That’s bringing joy and smiles to people in not so great situations,” said Cris Okulanis, Therapy Dogs United.  

They’re therapy dogs. They’re part of the nonprofit, Therapy Dogs United. A couple of trainers who live in the Cape Coral area are originally from outside of Pittsburgh. They train local dogs through their program with Stellar k-9 to become certified therapy dogs. They said typically, the group visits places like nursing homes. But Hurricane Ian has them traveling to visit first responders and displaced people, too.  

“It was a couple days after we reached out to fire departments, police departments and 911 centers, didn’t receive some calls back and then it just trickled in from there,” said Tracy Hudak with Therapy Dogs United.  

It looks like these dogs are doing the trick by bringing comfort to people who need it the most.  

“Anything from tears, hugs, happiness, anything,” said Okulanis and Hudak. “They're telling us their stories and what they’ve lost and these guys are working 12-hour shifts, six days straight. And these guys are away from their families and telling us about their dogs, showing pictures of their dogs and just loving on ours and really appreciating that we brought them out there, just to get their mind set on something else instead of this tragedy around them.” 

And while these dogs are use to the job, this pup might need a little more training. But he’s off to a promising start, by bringing smiles to people’s faces. 

“Our therapy dog team felt perfect because at this time during this tragedy to have the dogs with them, with people, is just really good for them,” said Hudak.