A woman pets a comfort dog named Gabriel on Saturday at the memorial site for victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in the town square of Uvalde, Texas. Credit: Wong Maye-E / AP

Some hero pups are back home in South Jersey after providing comfort to those affected by last week’s shooting in Uvalde.

Three Jersey-based dogs and handlers of Crisis Canines spent much of the past week in the small Texas town that was shattered by the killings of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.

Axel, a Rottweiler from Gloucester Township; Exon, a black Labrador from Pitman; and Tarik, a German shepherd from Mullica Hill; flew to Uvalde last Thursday and returned Tuesday, Crisis Canines CEO and president Andrea Hering said.

They were among several groups of therapy dogs from across the country that attended memorials and visited Robb Elementary. They also went to hospitals; churches; police, fire and EMS departments; and even grocery stores.

“They’re a sense of comfort. A lot of times counselors want to ask questions. With the dogs, it’s unspoken communication,” Hering said. “Sometimes people talk to the dogs or simply hold onto them.”

In Uvalde, handlers reported that even some residents who were fearful of dogs gravitated toward the pups, Hering said. Children in particular are sometimes more likely to open up about trauma in the presence of an animal, she added.

These three dogs were chosen to go to Uvalde based on the skill sets of the canines and handlers, Hering said, with the hot, humid environment top of mind.

The trio is experienced, she said, with Exon having been dispatched in the wake of nearly every major national tragedy since the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas in 2017.

In total, more than 30 New Jersey-area dogs and their handlers are part of Crisis Canines, Hering said, and they work in the community when not responding to larger-scale crisis events.

The organization is composed of volunteers who undergo certification and regular training in psychological first aid. They have provided comfort in the wake of more than two dozen other major tragedies, including the deadly shootings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Story by Erin McCarthy, The Philadelphia Inquirer.