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As Americans reel from a horrific act of violence in Newtown, Conn., debates over gun control, mental health care and children's safety have reopened across the US and beyond. GlobalPost brings you news and analysis from around the world in the wake of a shooting that left 20 children and eight adults dead.

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America's best friend? Sandy Hook comfort dogs take the lead in Newtown (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Comfort dog program paid unknowing tribute to one little golden retriever-loving victim of the Sandy Hook shooting.

The arrival of specially-trained "comfort dogs" to grieving Newtown days after a shooting tragedy killed 27 people would have thrilled little Madeleine Hsu, a six-year-old who loved her neighbor's golden retriever. 

The neighbor, Karen Dryer, told the Associated Press she would wait for her daughter after school every day with their golden retriever in tow — delighting Madeleine every time she arrived home.

"She would come off the bus and her face would light up when she saw the dog," Dryer said, according to the Associated Press

Now eight of the very same breed have made an 800-mile trek to Newtown to comfort residents after Friday's horrific shooting, which killed Madeleine and 19 other children.

More from GlobalPost: (PHOTOS): Comfort dogs on mission

Six-year-old Hsu would have loved to meet the newly-arrived Abbi, Barnabas (a gentleman dog whose Facebook photo shows in him a suit), Chewie (whose Facebook photo shows him as an adorable puppy), Hannah, Luther, Prince, Ruthie and Shami

The dogs have been a hit in the small Connecticut town shaken by the shooting, bringing much-needed comfort and even making a special appearance on MSNBC's Today Show. 

The eight golden retrievers, specially trained in comforting the bereaved, have been a gift to residents struggling to cope with their loss. 

Each dog wears a name tag listing his or her Facebook page, Twitter account and email in case people want to find the animal again, according to The Chicago Tribune

The program that trains and dispatches the "K-9 Parish Comfort Dogs" is the work of Lutheran Church Charities, which started the project in response to a 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University in which five students were killed. The program has since reached out to people hit by Hurricane Sandy and now claims about 60 dogs in six states, reported the Tribune.

Watch the Newtown team's Today Show special here: 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/121218/americas-best-friend-comfort-dogs-take-the-lead-