Therapy Dogs Work at Funeral Homes, Bringing Comfort to the Grieving

The healing power of dogs is no secret, and these four therapy dogs help people when they need it most.

Funeral homes are places of somber reflection and grief, and a dog may be the last thing you'd expect to see. But funeral homes across the country are embracing the comfort of animals and offering visitors a unique way to cope with loss.

If you've recently lost a loved one, there are no words that can make you feel better. But it isn't words of encouragement or condolences that these therapy dogs offer. Their mere presence is enough to release "feel good" hormones like serotonin and oxytocin. They bring comfort without saying a word.

Here are five therapy dogs working in funeral homes to help those who are grieving.

1. Magic

A 12-year-old Portuguese Water Dog named Magic was rescued from a situation where he was being treated inhumanely by a breeder. His calm, stoic personality stood out as he was chosen to receive extensive training as a grief therapy dog.

He works at the DeJohn Funeral Home & Crematory in South Euclid, Ohio. He joined their family in 2008, and he's now a welcome face for everyone who walks through the door. As he prepares for retirement, he's taken a puppy named Coco under his paw. Coco will continue Magic's work of bringing peace to others.

2. Lily

Visitors at Traunero Funeral Home in Tiffin, Ohio, are drawn to Lily's soft curls and bright eyes. As the resident therapy dog, Lily, seems to have instinctual knowledge about when she's needed. She needs no prompting to approach people lost in their grief, and her gentle companionship is always a welcome escape from the reality of the day.

Lily has received personal letters from people thanking her for her support, and it's not uncommon for someone to stop by the funeral home simply to say "hi" to the pup. She's also a frequent visitor at the Stein Hospice Grief Camp for Children.

3. Judd

A Golden Retriever and certified therapy dog named Judd is the furriest staff member at Armes-Hunt Funeral Home in Fairmont, Indiana.

His handler, Shari Wallace, admitted the idea of using therapy dogs in funeral homes is new, but she doesn't doubt her dog's natural ability to bring comfort and peace to those in need. She told Animal Wellness Magazine that simply touching the top of Judd's head helps people to relax.

Judd's signature comfort move is to lay on an emotionally distressed person's feet. He's able to sense a person's emotional needs, and his comforting presence brings real relief to those holding back the powerful feelings of losing a loved one.

4. Lulu

Lulu is a Golden Doodle who works with Ballard Durand Funeral Home in White Plains, New York. The fact that she's hypoallergenic gives her a leg up in the world of animal therapy, and she's been specially certified as a grief therapy dog. After nearly a year's worth of training, she is a valued member of the Ballard Durand Funeral Home.

Simply having Lulu in the room during a funeral service has been known to help those in need. She offers a subtle distraction from grief for both children and adults. She's available by request to attend funerals, wakes, and other events where she might be needed.

5. Rocky

Bartolomeo & Perotto Funeral Home in Rochester, New York, welcomed a Golden Doodle named Rocky to the team in 2015. He started as a puppy, and he's been working hard over the past year to complete his therapy dog training.

Andrea Ruggieri from Bartolomeo Perotto Funeral Home wrote a tribute to Rocky saying, "Loveable and full of spunk, he happily comes to the office every week day acclimating himself to the funeral home and his work family."

So far in his training, Rocky has met with families during funeral arrangements, and his furry presences is always received with positive reactions.

These five dogs each play a key role in helping bereaved families cope with grief. Their amazing sense of perception allows them to recognize emotional needs, and hours of training have taught them appropriate responses and reactions. A quick nuzzle or pat on the head is often enough to help people take the first step in their healing process.

What do you think about therapy dogs being used in funeral homes? Let us know in the comments.

This article was originally published April 21, 2017.

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