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At Dalhousie University therapy dogs are brought to the ‘puppy room’ so that students can visit and pet them to reduce stress before exams.

Sándor Fizli/The Globe and Mail)

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that': the Martin Luther King Jr. quote has been used a lot this week.

Today, that light comes in the form of five, doe-eyed golden retrievers – therapy dogs from the Lutheran Church Charities, arriving in Boston to help heal a grieving city.

The fluffy necks of Luther, Ruthie, Maggie, Addie, and Isaiah – service dogs with special training in emotional support – may be a perfect place to find solace for Bostonians in the aftermath of senseless violence that left three dead and more than 180 injured.

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While authorities release images and video of suspects in the cowardly attacks, these dogs are busy at work. Some canines, such as Louie the Comfort dog, 'a Golden Retriever on a mission from God,' even have their own Twitter accounts.

Unfortunately, the pooches have already been busy – members of this pack were sent to comfort Newtown Connecticut, where the dogs stayed with students of Sandy Hook elementary school.

The Lutheran K-9 program started five years ago, in response to a shooting at Northern Illinois University, which left five students dead.

"People talk to the dogs – they're like furry counsellors," Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, told

The calming power of dogs isn't new: a recent Dalhousie initiative introduced dogs to stressed out students, and a decade-long program connects puppies with autistic children – healing, it seems, is what doggies do best – among many other hidden talents. But healing Boston may seem like an impossible task – how can a simple animal have such immense power?

The chemical reaction is undeniable, according to Marjorie Jacobs, a training associate at Boston University's Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation.

Petting and holding pooches releases oxytocin, she told Boston Magazine. The hormone brings grieving people "back into the present moment" and allows them "to forget about the past, and from thinking about the anxiety in the future."

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(It's a joy us dog owners know well – even when in the most gruelling days, the second I'm home and my boxer folds into herself, wiggling with glee, throwing bursts of hot dog breath in my face: her joy is contagious.)

As the city begins to mend – look no further than this anthem belting, and this eloquent monologue by Stephen Colbert for proof of Boston's strength – the special dogs carry a big burden, oblivious to the death and destruction that can be inflicted by humans. Let's hope this is the last job these pooches will ever have to work.

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