Therapy dogs help communities traumatized by gun violence

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CHICAGO — Gun violence impacts not only victims and their families — but also entire communities, leaving people mentally and emotionally traumatized in its wake.

Some have compared the mental effects of gun violence to post-traumatic stress disorder, the syndrome more commonly associated with soldiers returning from war.

Now there’s a unique program helping both veterans and young victims of violence look forward to living again with the help of a four-legged friend. Tony Gordon came up with the idea of pairing Vietnam veterans with troubled young men to talk about issues they have in common. Then he added dogs into the mix, getting the veterans and the mentees to work together to train the dogs, while learning discipline themselves.

Gordon, who has trained dogs for almost 40 years, said he believes the unconditional love dogs give helps make the Canine Assisted Therapy Services (CATS) program work.

“We don’t have a cure or a fix-all," he said, "but this is one small piece that would help some of these young brothers."

Gordon and his wife funded CATS themselves this past year, but now need help and volunteers. Anyone looking for more information can email Gordon at

For more information on CATS, visit Twitter or Facebook.

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