Parents Of Theater Shooting Victim Found Comfort From Therapy Dog During Trial

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – Coloradans living through some of the most horrific situations are finding comfort from trained therapy dogs. The animals provided a lot of behind the scenes support during the Aurora theater shooting trial making a big impact on the victims and families.

The nonprofit Animals for Therapy was brought in through volunteers. The presence of the dogs inside the courthouse was a light in a dark situation, according to families.

“Chester and I have become real close … he’s got those really soft looking eyes like he’s your best bud,” Scott Larimer said.

Scott and Kathleen Larimer made a friend in the most unlikely place. Chester was one of five therapy dogs brought into the Arapahoe County Justice Center for the theater shooting trial. Their son John Larimer was among the 12 who died.

John Larimer was a Navy sailor based at Buckley Air Force Base, where he was a cryptologic technician – a job that the Navy says on its website should be filled by someone with “exceptionally good character, above-average writing and speaking skills, a good memory, curiosity and resourcefulness.” Those who knew him described him in similar terms. Larimer, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake, Ill., joined the service in 2011, the Navy said. “A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him. My heart goes out to John’s family, friends and loved ones, as well as to all the victims of this horrible tragedy,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, his commanding officer, in a written statement. A family member told the Daily Herald newspaper in Arlington Heights, Ill., that Larimer was the youngest of five siblings. Neighbors in his hometown recalled his sense of humor. “We love you, John, and we will miss you always,” his parents said in a statement. Larimer instinctively dove on top of his girlfriend when the gunfire broke out. (credit: CBS)

John Larimer was a Navy sailor based at Buckley Air Force Base, where he was a cryptologic technician (credit: CBS)

“There were days that were really hard to listen to, but there were so many mixed blessings in that we got to meet so many other families that … you share this bond that nobody wants to share, but you share this bond,” Kathleen Larimer said.

One of those bonds was found in Chester.

The therapy dog even helped family members relax before and after they would testify, like Kathleen did. “When you get down and your legs kind of get Jell-O and you go back and you sit down with Chester and you take a couple of deep breaths and suddenly the world rights itself a little bit,” she said.

The Larimers with Chester (credit: CBS)

The Larimers with Chester (credit: CBS)

Kateri Nelson with Animals for Therapy says the dogs sense when someone is struggling.

“He knows when a person is upset … he knows right away and he goes straight to that person and he’s going to sit by the person and just wait until they pet them,” Nelson said.

The Larimers say Chester, the victim advocates and meeting the other families helped them deal with the tragedy of losing their son. They say Chester even helped when the final verdict was read.

Chester (credit: CBS)

Chester (credit: CBS)

“I was disappointed and went back there I got to pet Chester … it just, ‘Okay, a couple of deep breaths and the world …. what happened is done,’ ” Kathleen said.

The Larimers go back home to Crystal Lake, Illinois on Wednesday. They will be back in Colorado for the sentencing at the end of the month — and so will Chester. LINK: Animals for Therapy

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