On December 10, 2023, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Napa, California had a 10th year birthday party for their comfort dog, Aaron (born on December 5, 2013). St. John’s has had a Comfort Dog ministry through Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) since March 29, 2015. That was the date that Aaron Comfort Dog, a golden retriever trained by LCC, was installed at St. John’s. Aaron is part of an extensive care and outreach ministry for the church and the Napa community that includes at least 30 dedicated lay people who are all part of Team Aaron.
Aaron was the first comfort dog that LCC placed on the West Coast. The story began when members of St. John’s had an interest in starting a comfort dog ministry as they felt this was something God was calling them to do. As they were submitting their application for a dog and putting the pieces in place to start this ministry, the Napa Valley was rocked by a 6.1 earthquake on August 24, 2014 that caused a lot of damage and trauma to both children and adults. St. John’s requested that LCC send comfort dogs to Napa to help. Four dogs, along with their handlers from different parts of the country, visited St. John’s as well as other parts of the Napa community. This included spending time with students at St. John’s Lutheran School.
Since 2015, Aaron and his Team have become a major care and outreach ministry of St. John’s. Team Aaron keeps up a very busy schedule in the Napa community with regular visits and appointments that include worship on Sunday, school chapel on Wednesday, visits to local public elementary and high schools, an alternative school, a juvenile detention center, senior facilities, an adult day care, helping a local Marriage and Family Therapist, work with the county court system and District Attorney with their victims advocacy program, support for local fire departments including CalFire, visits to the local Veterans Home, visits to support a program for homeless veterans, visits to Kaiser Hospital, work with the local Law Enforcement Chaplaincy program, visits to city and county law enforcement stations, as well as other needs that arise - like support for local schools after traumatic deaths of students or teachers. Aaron has become very recognizable and a well-known celebrity in Napa.
Although Aaron was the first LCC K9 Comfort Dog on the west coast, there are now eight comfort dogs (soon to be nine) serving in the west coast region. This includes dogs in Washington, California, and Nevada. In addition to local needs, Team Aaron (often with a combination of the other regional dogs) is requested to deploy to major incidents or tragedies all over the west coast. These include wildfires, mass shootings, and other traumatic events where they are the bridge for ministry to those who are hurting and in need.
Team Aaron is made up of Aaron Comfort Dog and at least 30 individuals who are trained for positions in social media, communication, a prayer team, handlers, and ministry partners. On a typical visit, a handler brings Aaron to the location and is responsible for taking care of the dog while a ministry partner is there to talk to the individuals involved. The ministry partner is the one who helps provide the care that is needed and will also look for opportunities to provide spiritual support as well.
Team Aaron as well as the other comfort dog teams want schools and congregations in the CNH District to know that they are available to you if you see a need in your community, or you just want more information about the LCC K9 Comfort Dog Ministry. Below is a list of the Comfort Dog Teams with links to websites in the CNH District.
Team Aaron Comfort Dog St. John’s Lutheran Church, Napa, CA
Team Genesis Comfort Dog Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Turlock, CA
Team Reuben Comfort Dog First Lutheran Church, Yuba City, CA
Team Rahab Comfort Dog St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Stockton, CA
Team Micah Comfort Dog Light of the Valley Lutheran Church, Elk Grove, CA