The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Turlock is well on its way to bringing some comfort to town in the form of a furry friend.
Since 2018, Pastor Ron Youngdale and Pam Youngdale have spearheaded an effort to bring a Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog to the church — a loving canine who will not only provide companionship to the team at Good Shepherd ready to take him or her under their wing, but who will also work dutifully to bring happiness to those in town going through tough times.
“It really is a big deal — I can’t stress enough that how special it is that Turlock is going to have one of these,” Pam Youngdale said.
There are currently 130 LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs in 25 states throughout the country, and when Good Shepherd receives theirs, the dog will be just one of five in the state. Each LCC K-9 Comfort Dog receives over 2,000 hours of training, and Good Shepherd’s team of handlers will be interviewed by the organization before they get to bring their comfort dog home.
According Pam Youngdale, the church first began the process to bring a comfort dog to Turlock two years ago after Ron Youngdale learned about them during a conference in Arizona. When he saw one of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs console a forlorn traveler at the airport, he knew Turlock could benefit from such a canine.
“They have this kind of innate way of telling when somebody’s hurting,” Pam Youngdale said. “I did some research and just felt it would be a good fit for our congregation and felt there was a big need for something like this.”
On March 2, the team of handlers from Good Shepherd will travel to Illinois for their interview, which will make sure the church can provide a good home for a comfort dog. Then, a select few will return to Illinois for more training some weeks later and bring the new dog back to Turlock.
“The dog will just be there to offer comfort and support, and it’s not just during times when people are stressed — it could be just going into a classroom and being there for the kids,” Pam Youngdale said. “The dogs get people to talk…it seems the more they’re around the dog, the more comfortable they feel.”
In order to prepare for their new dog, the Good Shepherd team recently shadowed two LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs during a trip to Denair High School in September, which went to the school to comfort students after the tragic loss of a classmate.
“The dog is just there to be petted and hugged and nuzzled, and there’s just something that changes in people when they have that,” Pam Youngdale said.
While Good Lutheran has raised enough funds to pay for their new comfort dog, there will be ongoing costs to care for the dog, which are separate from the church’s budget. Those interested in donating to the cause can contact the church at 209-667-7712.