Tri-state Canine Response Team travels to Uvalde to support community after Texas school shooting

REBECCA: The country is dealing with yet another mass shooting here in Uvalde, Texas. I want to start with you, Maura. You have been in the position of these family members of the victims before. Talk about what you went through in Sandy Hook.  

MAURA: So my mother was the school psychologist who was shot at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. And it's an experience that I have described as obviously horrifying and something no one ever wants to live through. But it's something that will always be a part of me, and that sometimes doesn't really seem real. And I'm sure that's what all the families are going through now, especially with it being just to me still to this day. Those emotions, those scars are still there almost ten years later. And so I can't I mean, I know what those families are going through, but to verbalize it and to try and put those raw emotions into words- it's just, it's something that just can't be done. It's just so deep, especially when it's such trauma in such a public way and is so raw and sudden loss of life such as this. And like when I lost my mother.  

REBECCA: When you heard that 19 children had been killed and two teachers here in Texas, what was that like? I mean, I would imagine that each mass shooting is like reliving what you went through over and over again.

MAURA: This one in particular- my husband was trying to warn me to not look at the news, but obviously you can't avoid it. It's on social media. It's everywhere. And as soon as I saw the numbers, which are so close to Sandy Hook's numbers, it was like I was right back on December 14th. 
It was that same pit in my stomach, not knowing what to do with my emotions, not having control of my emotions, breaking down in front of my children. It was just it was like right back. It was like ten years ago all over again.  

REBECCA: I'm so sorry for what you went through and for what countless family members are going through right now. Janice, I want to talk to you. You're with the Tri-state Canine Response Team, and you've got a little guy in that car behind you. Tell us about what your role is, your group's role?  

JANICE: Well, first I need to introduce Logan or he will be upset with me. This is Logan. He's a 17-month-old golden retriever, and he is packing his bags, and we are flying out tomorrow at five in the morning. We're going with a team of four dogs. We have three crisis counselors going with us, dog handlers. And we also have a crisis counselor who is bilingual who will be able to go with us to be able to speak to some of the families in their language.  

REBECCA: So you just got back from Buffalo, another mass shooting. What do you do? What do the dogs do once you get to affected towns?  

JANICE: One of the first things we do is we always deploy. Under orders or an invitation, we never just self deploy to Texas when we hear something happens. So we have, we're part of the crisis intervention team of New Jersey City, New Jersey, which is a training for police officers and mental health workers. And they're all throughout the United States and international where they're ambassador dogs. So we got an invite from CIT in Texas to come out to work with the first responders, to go in and see the dispatchers who took the calls and was horrifically trying to dispatch everyone to the scene at the time. So we work with the police officers. We also work with the family members, the victims and the community at large when there's vigils.  

REBECCA: Maura, I want to ask about your mom and how you have turned your grief into action and about Mary's Fund.  

MAURA: So my mother's lifelong work was working with children and adolescents, mental health and wellness. And so once she was taken, we, you know, people wanted to do something like, can we give you money? And, you know, we didn't want to take the money. You know, we were like 'if we have to take the money because people wanted to do something, like we need to do something that's going to that'. She'd be proud that we can help others the way she helped so many children in her line of work as a school psychologist. So we created Mary's Fund days after, and it was established first in Connecticut.

We saw the power of these dogs. And so we wanted to support that in any way we can. And luckily we've had a great partnership over the last several years, and we look to continue that partnership for many, many, many, many, many years to come.  

REBECCA: Well, Janice and Mara, thank you both so much for what you do.