BOSTON (CBS) – The following is a piece I’ve written for a soon to be published book about the heroes of the Boston Marathon –
Hosting a talk show for the last eighteen years on WBZ NEWSRADIO 1030, the highest rated news/talk station in New England, has meant “being there,” on scene during many unforgettable moments. From the death of Princess Diana to the horrors of 9-11 to a slew of World Series and Super Bowl parades, it’s been my honor to process and deliver news to a widespread audience, all the while offering listeners a chance to connect and share their opinions, emotions, fears and hopes.
No local event in recent memory has been as emotionally jarring as the Marathon terror bombings. The WBZ broadcast team spent weeks covering everything from the impact of the blasts and the heroism of first responders to the struggle on the part of the victims and all Bostonians to return to some sense of normalcy.
In the fall, I was approached by listener Susan Papalia and asked if I would host a show on the critical work done by K-9 Comfort Dogs of the Lutheran Church Charities. They would be in Boston for an upcoming day of recognition for first responders. The important role the dogs played in the aftermath of the bombings would be recognized by the city.
I jumped at the chance to talk with those who headed to Boston so quickly to offer support and comfort. Along with Susan, trainer Dina Mastropietro and New Town, Connecticut resident/ volunteer Wendy Cole, two of the working comfort dogs— Addie and Maggie— would be appearing on the show. I was thrilled to meet several members of the dynamic team, featuring the two legged and four legged helpers, who kept “Boston Strong” in the days, weeks and months following the attack.
I’m blessed getting the chance to interview thousands of guests from all walks of life. But this assignment offered a little bonus. The women suggested they visit my home earlier that day to introduce me properly to the lovely Addie and Maggie. I rarely do pre-interviews but made an exception for personal reasons. Allow me this explanation.
No one escapes life without their share of trauma. We Bostonians collectively felt the stinging loss of innocent life and limb during the Marathon bombings and the violent capture of the terrorists. This past year my family, like so many others, experienced personal trauma and sadness as well. In early August my wife of thirty-one years and mother of our two children passed away after a long, grueling illness. Since her death, I have dealt with grief in my own way, the best I can. Knowing the dogs would be spending some quality time with me would no doubt cause me to smile. Did I mention how much I love animals? Little did I know how special those few hours with them would end up being for me.
The women, along with their lady dog companions, stopped by on Saturday afternoon, several hours before the radio show. I learned about the dogs’ intense training program, how volunteers are matched with the animals and some sweet stories of the dogs’ impact on victims and first responders. We also discussed the Lutheran Comfort Dogs’ ongoing mission in Newtown Connecticut, where one of the dogs has been permanently stationed to help young school kids deal with the stress following the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Cuddling and petting the dogs at home for an afternoon made me appreciate firsthand these beautiful golden retrievers as they radiate warmth and love, the kind that makes a palpable difference in the lives of the sick, the disabled, the victimized. I had a permanent smile for the rest of the day.
We met later that evening at the station to prepare for the midnight show. The dogs quickly curled up to relax by my feet. What a terrific perk for your friendly host here. Addie and Maggie were content to hang out quietly while their human colleagues lauded their contributions, telling heartwarming personal stories about each dog’s loving nature and the positive effects they have on people. We also saluted the amazing folks who train, house and transport comfort dogs to places they’re needed, often traveling on a moment’s notice at their own expense.
The audience and I gained insight into something very special that day. Heroes do come in all shapes, colors, sizes and yes species. Some happen to have golden fur and selflessly offer their paws in friendship. Unconditional love and therapeutic healing is brought to you by the K-9 Comfort Dogs of the Lutheran Church Charities, helping victims and their families cope. I want to thank Addie and Maggie for helping me too.
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