Recalling the moments bullets ricocheted across a Colorado movie theater on what was supposed to be an average Friday night out was traumatizing for the survivors of the 2012 Aurora Movie Theater Shooting, in which 12 people died and 70 were injured. But for those who testified at and witnessed the trial about three years later, the experience was made a little bit easier thanks to a Labrador Retriever named Chester.
And now, they’re paying him back.
Chester, a therapy dog, spent 138 hours with the survivors and their families during the trial of James Holmes, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Before a person would testify, some of them would pet Chester. The person would testify and come back crying, and would cuddle up with Chester on the ground. The last day, we were right there in the hallway with the families when it was all over,” Chester’s owner Kateri Nelson said (scroll down for video).
But Chester was recently diagnosed with a spinal infection that causes significant pain to the neck. He’s being treated with antibiotics by specialists at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
A GoFundMe account was set up for Chester’s care, which includes multiple pills a day and may eventually require surgery. According to 9News, the victims of the shooting set up the page. As of September 24, more than $11,000 had been donated. Any funds that aren’t used for Chester’s veterinary expenses will be donated to Animals for Therapy's trauma support program, 9News explained.
According to CSU, Chester was bred to be a hunting dog, but as the owners got to know his calm, affectionate nature, they knew he was destined for therapy work.
See his doctors speak about his care here: