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Therapy dogs played part in 9/11 recovery
Local group that used dogs to help families at Pentagon crash site attending memorial today

 Bree, owned by Kim and Andy Fraser of Spotsylvania County, will be one of several therapy dogs attending the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial today.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 9/11/2008

By Rob Hedelt

AGROUP of Fredericksburg-area volunteers attending the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial this morning will arrive with unique memories from the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Owners of therapy dogs, called in to help everyone from volunteers to family members of those killed, expect it will be an emotional time as they relive the moments when their animals brought solace to people in the worst kind of pain.

In one case, a woman, just after being told her husband was confirmed dead, stood up and screamed wildly, unable to hear or react to those trying to console her.

Almost by instinct, Sue Peetoom of King George County gathered up her sweet black Labrador, Rosie, and eased over to the woman, who was still screaming. When the woman looked up and noticed Rosie, she stopped screaming and was able to be helped.

There were also quieter exchanges, such as the moment Kim Fraser of Spotsylvania County had with the mother of a Naval officer killed in the blast.

"As she stopped by to pet our greyhound, Howe, she began to let out some of the painful emotions," said Fraser. "She had three sons in the Navy, but said the one at the Pentagon was the one she never thought of as being in immediate danger."

Elsewhere, a teenage girl, after hearing her father was among those killed, locked herself in a bathroom stall, refusing to come out.

Linda Damiano, then of Spotsylvania, lost no time gathering up her small Yorkshire terrier, Keelan, and slipping the dog into the stall in an attempt to reach the heartbroken young woman.

"She unlocked the door right away and came out hugging Keelan," said Damiano. "It was just enough to bring her a little relief."

While those are special cases, the local volunteers with what was then called Spiritkeepers Chapter 114 of Therapy Dogs International said there were literally hundreds of moments when their dogs provided people a chance to grieve and uncork trapped emotions.

"We'd see big, burly, tough military men pet or hug one of the dogs and just let all the hurt and frustration come out," Fraser said.


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