MORE THAN 80 SPCA PAWS FOR LOVE THERAPY DOGS SCHEDULED TO BE AT FALLEN BUFFALO K-9 OFFICER CRAIG LEHNER’S WAKE MONDAY, TUESDAY
October 23, 2017
By: Gina Browning, SPCA Chief Communications Officer
Thousands of people from the surrounding area and throughout the country are expected to visit Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home over the next two days to pay their respects to fallen Buffalo K-9 Officer Craig Lehner.
Also on hand will be more than 80 SPCA Paws for Love therapy dogs, hoping to bring comfort to those mourning this tragic loss. Most of the 80 volunteered their services within 15 minutes of the original request late last week.
The SPCA Paws for Love two- and four-footed volunteers who will be at Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home will be working one-hour shifts, and volunteers are trained to look for signs of fear, disinterest, or discomfort on the part of those present; they also are trained to not approach other working dogs or K-9s that will undoubtedly be present.
The SPCA Serving Erie County Paws for Love program includes therapy pet visitation to hospitals, nursing homes, Hospice organizations, courts, colleges and schools, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, and more. Most recently, the Family Justice Center of Erie County has been added to the program as a visitation site, along with one local funeral parlor, FE Brown Sons Funeral Home in Orchard Park; this funeral home has taken advantage of therapy dog visitation when families would like a healing, canine presence when it’s time to make very difficult service arrangements, then later at at wakes, funerals, and support group meetings.
Scientifically, petting a therapy animal has been proven to lower blood pressure and release a person’s dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin levels which can boost mood, while reducing high cortisol levels that create stress. Emotionally, the effects of therapy animals on hand during sad or anxiety-producing occasions are proving to be much more far-reaching (see “Therapy Dogs in Funeral Homes” from Animal Wellness Magazine, and “When Humans Grieve, More Funeral Homes Are Offering Therapy Dogs to Help” from Today).
Funeral parlor representatives interested in therapy dog visits from SPCA volunteers or those interested in learning more about becoming a Paws for Love volunteer can contact program coordinator Deborah Braun at firstname.lastname@example.org . Learn more about Paws for Love on YourSPCA.org’s page, or by finding Paws for Love on Facebook.
Below are comments from SPCA Paws for Love volunteers when asked why they chose to participate in this week’s services:
BETH DUNCAN, with Deuce
Animals have an amazing way of providing comfort at a time when there are no words to make it better. Officer Lehner shared an incredible bond with a dog, and I think it is only fitting that dogs are present to spend time with people as they grieve.
KRISTEN FRY, with Rusty
Anyone who hears about the tragic loss of Officer Lehner feels connected to him in some way-even those of us like me, who never personally met him. He seemed like the type of guy who was dedicated to whatever it was that he took on-including his dog Shield.
JIM KOZLOWSKI, with Sonny
As a Paws for Love volunteer, it is rewarding to take my dog into the community to brighten the spirit of those who are going through difficult times. By just petting an animal, it brings a sense of peace to those who need it. I’m honored to bring my dog.
SHARON DAVIS, with Tony
Black lab Tony was my husband’s Guide Dog for the Blind. In 6 years they were NEVER separated until my husband’s death. I witnessed the bond between a service dog & owner. The dog was grieving too. I signed up for Paws for Love so Tony has a new purpose as a therapy dog.
ANNE HART, with Carma
Carma is really good at calming people down and giving them peace. She has a special gift for that and loves working at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Her demeanor is amazing!! I felt that we could make a difference.
LISA MURPHY, with Cosmo
Cosmo loves to make people feel happy and put a smile on their faces, but Cosmo also knows when people just need comfort and love from him. Just petting Cosmo and giving him belly rubs takes a lot of stress and sadness away.
MARILYN FEUERSTEIN, with Elsa
Craig Lehner’s tragic death must have some meaning. Craig’s relationship with his K-9 Officer Shield makes the presence of our Paws for Love dogs especially fitting. I am proud that Craig’s family wants our dogs there and I hope Elsa can provide some comfort.
PAULA MACRIDES, with Chase
Even though I didn’t know Officer Lehner, I’ve learned he is a fellow dog-lover. It felt right having the therapy dogs present to offer support to his fellow officers, family, and friends.
DANIELLE BIEKERT, with Gander
Gander and I are honored to recognize the brave men and women who protect our country and community. Although I do not have a personal connection to Officer Lehner, I’m deeply touched by the story of the bond between Officer Lehner and his partner Shield.
DARLENE VOGEL, with Gibbs
Gibbs and I want to give back to a man who gave so much to help others in our city. Gibbs loves people and does amazing things for people by being there when they need him. We are honored to be able to be there for Officer Lehner and his family.
PAMELA WREN, with Sebastian
It’s why I do this… to help people…and it’s a small token of appreciation thanking Officer Lehner for his service.
CYNTHIA BRATEK, with Archie
I am the mother of 2 daughters who are Officer Lehner’s age. I am heartbroken for his mother & family & grieve for the successful, dedicated young man who died tragically before his time. I just want to help any way I can.
AL MONACO, with Jake
I feel it is a privilege and an honor to help support the family of Officer Lehner at this most difficult time.
CINDY BRADLEY, with Lily
I feel it is an honor to be able to assist with consoling all the people that will be attending his wake. This is truly a tragic thing that has happened. If Lily and I can make someone feel better for even a moment, that’s all that I ask.
TERESA STARK, with Gemma
I feel it’s an honor to provide any comfort to the grieving friends, family and comrades of Officer Lehner. He did so much for our country and community it’s the least I can do to volunteer a few hours of my time. I have been heartbroken over this loss.
MARY ST. MARY, with Abner
I have been so touched by the loss of Officer Lehner for many reasons, but primarily because he was a K9 officer. I knew he was a fellow dog lover and every time the bond between him and Shield is described — how they were inseparable — tears immediately spring into my eyes. I only wish that somehow Shield could understand that his best friend did not desert him and did not leave him voluntarily.
LISA ABBOTT, with Bella
I have seen, firsthand, how dogs can help people during stressful times. I want to be at the service to help those who are mourning because mourning is stressful. By having the dogs there, it also honors Craig Lehner’s work with his K-9 dog.
MOLLY RUBENSTEIN, with Ty
I have some good friends who are police officers and knew Officer Lehner. Ty and I just want to be able to help as much as we can.
CINDY STEMPNIAK, with Riley
I want to embrace the love & dedication Officer Lehner had for his dog by bringing my dog to his wake. I hope people understand that our dogs are there as special volunteers and will be a celebration of his life.
CRAIG KILGORE, with Yogi
I was touched by this Officer Craig Lehner’s story and could see through these stories the love he had for his K9 – Shield. Very heartwarming. I have two sons in law enforcement so I personally chose to volunteer out of respect for Officer Craig Lehner.
LINDA SOLTIS, with Miss Scarlet
In the case of K9 officer Lehner, he gave and received unconditional love and support from Shield. This is my chance to share my dog’s boundless love and support with those who are mourning this fallen policeman.
BERNADETTE MacLEOD, with Maple
In times of grief we are touched by so many. Animals help us as we grieve. You can hug them and cry and they patiently provide love and support. During difficult times they give us the chance to smile and provide a much-needed break from the sorrow.
LORAINE QUIRK, with Cena
It is an extreme honor to be asked to bring my therapy dog to Officer Lehner’s wake. Providing comfort is what our dogs do best. The Buffalo community has the best support system. Thank you to the Lehner family for sharing Craig’s love for K9 Shield.
KATHLEEN DOHERTY, with Bosco
It is hard to lose a loved one. It will be a trying few days for people giving their respect at the wake and funeral. Having Bosco there as well as other dogs will give people a smile and [provide] comfort during this tough time.
KELSIE RINGO, with Duke
It is the least that Duke and I can do. Many people can relate in that “The best therapist has fur and four legs.” I know Duke can provide people with a smile even if it is temporary. On a day like today, temporary is better than nothing at all.
SUSAN ALEXANDER, with JJ
It seems fitting to honor and offer support with my dog at the services of a man who went into the community every day with his dog. It seems a small gesture for someone who put his life on the line so many times, but I think he would like that.
TERRY JOHNSON, with Lilly
Lilly & I will be at the funeral home Monday afternoon to provide as much comfort and support as we can. My thoughts & prayers go out to Officer Lehner’s family & friends, and especially his partner Shield.
MARSHA WAGNER, with Lucy
Lucy wanted to participate out of respect for Shield. I am doing this out of respect not only for the fallen officer and his family but also to also provide comfort to all those who attend wake. I have seen what these dogs can do when there is mourning.
CAROLINE STURMER, with Charlie
My brother is a state trooper and knew the officer. I support all law enforcement officers and always pray for them.
CHRISTINA BROWN, with Mia
My car mechanic is Mike Lehner, Craig’s half-brother. Mike is the best mechanic and a wonderful, kind man. I wanted to do something to show my support for Mike and his family.
PAULETTE HENRY, with Bear
My dog Bear and I want to pay respect and honor Officer Lehner’s memory and support his family and Shield. My son is a Marine and a police officer in Marietta, GA so I have a personal understanding of the desire to serve.
JOAL MILLER, with Clooney
My dog, Clooney, and I are honored to be able to give a bit of comfort to those who will be paying their respects to Officer Lehner. During times of stress and sadness, dogs are a wonderful comfort and we are pleased to help.
JACKIE GALLAGHER, with Mikko
My son is a probation/parole officer in NC; every day that he goes to work, he does so with the thought of keeping his community safe. Many times he is in dangerous situations and I know as a mom how I feel. My heart goes out to the family.
THOMAS SZWED, with Nitro
Nitro and I enjoy sharing our unique service with everyone. It gives us a great feeling being able to serve and give back to the public as all police and emergency responders do!
KATHY WELLER, with Riley
Officer Lehner gave his life in the name of duty. The very least we can do is offer some peace and comfort for those grieving.
JIM KOWALSKI, with Sedona
Sedona is both a therapy and service dog. I’m a disabled vet. Paying my respect to the family for Officer Lehner’s service to country and community is a must for me.
JOSEPH RUSZALA, with Jay Jay
Showing support for fallen veteran and police officer.
MARLENE CLAWSON, with Sophie
Sophie & I volunteer to bring happiness and comfort to those in need, just as Office Lehner did with his partner, Shield. It is heartwarming to know Sophie may help others smile during this difficult time.
RONENE ANDO, with Ruby
The death of officer Lehner is tragic and so many of us have been emotionally touched. He clearly had a love and passion for both his profession and his loyal companion Shield. I believe he’s resting better knowing all our fur babies are here.
AMY HOFFMAN, with Willow
The goal of our work is to bring comfort and compassion to those who need it, in all types of situations. Officer Lehner gave everything for our community, so we are all coming together to give a little back.
JENNIFER JOYNER, with Bruno
The moment I saw the invite for officer Lehner’s calling hours I knew I wanted to be there. This is about coming together as a community to mourn the tragic loss of a wonderful person. To have all the dogs present will give amazing comfort to all.
MARGARET SULLIVAN, with Willow
There are few opportunities to give back to police officers… first responders… firefighters…and their families…. there was no consideration not to be there. Giving back is what we do with our four-legged family members.
MARGOT WAGNER, with Bella Rose
There is a bond that dog handlers have when it comes to working dogs. It does not matter if the dog is a police or a therapy dog. The time, training, and commands are similar. Our ultimate goal is to make the community a better place.
COLIN MIDDAUGH, with Cooper and Lola
To honor the memory of someone willing to dedicate his life to public service.
JILL MORAN, with Dublin
To say “Thank you for your service” to Officer Lehner and to offer support to his friends and families: blood, police, and military families.
HEIDI KELEHER, with Coco
We want to show this dedicated man’s family our gratitude and respect for the job he did. We also want to let ALL our first responders know that we are grateful for the job they all do every day. Also, the partnership he had with Shield touches our hearts.