Dogs have a way of making people feel at ease during stressful times and can help many experience a sense of “everything is going to be alright.”
So it may come to no surprise that a growing number of funeral homes are using therapy dogs — along with well-behaved pooches and a docile cats — to help mourners of all ages get through the loss of loved ones, reports ABC News via the Associated Press.
“We hear from members that more and more of them are bringing animals into funeral homes,” Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association, told the news agency. “Be it a dog or a cat, whether it’s a certified therapy dog or just an extremely well-behaved family pet.”
One of these animals is Lulu. The curly-haired Goldendoodle belongs to Matthew Fiorillo, owner of Ballard-Durand Funeral & Cremation Services in White Plains, New York. In addition to keeping mourners company, the 1-year-old pooch even “prays” on command — a trick that involves her bowing her head between her front paws while perched on a kneeler, ABC News reports.
Funeral directors say dogs, especially trained therapy animals, can lighten uncomfortable situations and tense atmospheres often found at wakes and funerals — sometimes doing nothing more than being there. This was seen during the funeral for an elderly woman in Mexico, when a group of stray dogs showed up at her services.
Mark Krause, owner and president of Krause Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bought Portuguese Water Dog Oliver as a family pet in 2001. After his wife trained Oliver to be a therapy dog and they saw the benefits people experienced, they allowed him to help mourners, as well. Krause estimates Oliver touched a couple thousand families before the beloved dog died in 2011.
“In a funeral home, people are typically on edge, uncomfortable,” Krause told the AP. “But everyone lights up, everyone has to greet the dog.”