Chloe the Comfort Dog

Comfort Dog Ministry

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During her service, Chloe has participated locally at schools, homeless shelters, community events, support groups, food pantries, and Lord of Life church events.  Chloe comforts church members who have lost loved ones.  She regularly visits with mentors at the Illinois Youth Center, which houses incarcerated boys ages 13-18.   She also joins other comfort dogs at Lutheran Church Charity community outreach events and deployments to disasters.  Chloe is a staff member of Lord of Life and greets there on Sunday mornings.  Children are drawn to Chloe like a magnet and she brings many smiles to the adults, too.

Welcoming Home a Soldier

Her Story

Chloe was born into a litter of purebred Golden Retriever pups bred by Debbie Szwandrok of Sunset Goldens, Villa Park, Illinois, on February 10, 2011.  She was evaluated for her suitability for service work as a comfort dog at a very young age.  She passed her evaluation for temperament, personality & trainability and then was placed for training with a female inmate at Dwight Women’s Prison in Dwight, IL.

Comfort Dog Training

Chloe, who was about 10 weeks old, was paired with a woman inmate who had volunteered and was chosen to participate in an intensive, year-long Lutheran Church Charities program.  The volunteer inmate attended a special Lakeland College certificate program, where she learned to be a comfort dog trainer and other employable canine-related skills, while living and working with Chloe on an around-the-clock basis.   We are forever indebted to this special woman, who through her commitment to this program, and her training efforts with Chloe, gave her time, talent and love, so that Chloe could become the wonderful comfort dog that she is.  After about 12 months of intensive training which brought Chloe to the level of a service dog, Chloe was “released from prison” and vetted with additional trainers for about a month.  They took her everywhere with them, in order to do her final socialization in places like airports, malls and restaurants, to expose her to any situation or circumstance in which she might find herself as a comfort dog, including elevators, noisy and very busy places. She also gained experience in being calm and comfortable riding in a vehicle.  By the end of March of 2012, just shy of 14 months old, Chloe had passed all of her final evaluations with flying colors—she was ready to be placed as a Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog!

Placement as a Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog 

In January, 2012, Lutheran Church Charities visited Lord of Life Church in LaFox, Illinois with some of their K-9 Comfort Dogs and gave an informational talk on the K-9 Comfort Dog ministry, as they were being highlighted as Lord of Life’s “mission of the month”.  Diane Roloff, a member of Lord of Life, fell instantly in love with the dogs and the ministry, which endeavors to “bring the mercy, compassion, presence and proclamation of Jesus Christ to those suffering and in need.”   She spoke to Pastor Phil Ressler, who also was taken with the comfort dogs and believed they could be used effectively to minister to those Lord of Life serves.  Over the coming months, Lord of Life submitted a ministry plan to LCC, detailing the ways in which a comfort dog could be used to reach people both in the congregation, in the surrounding communities and beyond.  They identified caregivers and handlers within the congregation and raised the necessary funds to purchase a comfort dog through the purple pouch campaign.  Not knowing which of the comfort dogs in training at the time would be assigned, LCC eventually matched Chloe with our congregation.  On April 29, 2012, at a Passing of the Leash Ceremony, Lutheran Church Charities formally handed over a beautiful, brown-eyed, sweet-natured, highly-trained young comfort dog.