Therapy Dogs Provide Comfort To Mourners At Funeral Homes

More and more funeral homes across the country are finding dogs are helping family members through their grief.

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Lulu of Ballard-Durand funeral home comforts a family in mourning. Via mattbdfh /YouTube

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.”

Funeral home owner Matthew Fiorillo and Lulu spend time with some kids who visited the funeral home. Via YouTube

Funeral home owner Matthew Fiorillo and Lulu spend time with some kids who visited the funeral home. Via mattbdfh/YouTube

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.

At left, Lulu waits out front for visitors. Right, Oliver is pictured before his death in 2011. Via Facebook and Krause funeral home.

At left, Lulu waits out front for visitors. Right, Oliver is pictured before his death in 2011. Via Facebook and Krause Funeral Home.

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.”

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  • Dogs are AMAZING!!! Some people don’t give them enough credit. The love, joy and companionship they give us is PRICELESS! We humans are SO FORTUNATE to have these beautiful creations of our Heavenly Father, as companions.

    Dear Heavenly Father, THANK YOU that you have given us such AMAZING companions. Please bless ALL animals, their environments and the people who are passionate about them! Amen xo xo

    Wendye L Kolles July 29, 2015 3:20 am Reply
    • AMEN!

      Guest100 July 29, 2015 12:36 pm Reply
    • AMEN!!!

      Gayle Summers July 29, 2015 1:25 pm Reply
    • Very well said. And I stand in agreement with your prayer.

      San July 29, 2015 10:11 pm Reply
  • I think this is a wonderful idea! I don’t know why some one hasn’t come up with this year’s ago. Animals have a way of calming nerves. I know first hand. As a young 18 year old, I was about to get married at the home of the minister. I nearly threw up from being nervous, when his dog walked in. He come to each of us to say hello then back to me. My nerves calmed down and I made it thru the ceremony just fine. He stood next to the minister until he was done, then come to me and my husband again. It was great.

    Sandra July 29, 2015 3:24 am Reply
  • When my mom was in a nursing home, I always took my dog, Harley, a Maltese/Bichon mix. He wasn’t a therapy dog per se but he was such a comfort to other people in the nursing home. Everybody we came in contact with wanted to pet him and it seemed to make everyone feel better. As Wendye said above, thank you, God, for these blessed beings.

    Mary Crawmer July 29, 2015 5:43 am Reply
  • This is a WONDERFUL story. Goes to show a well-trained calm do can help EVERY sad situation. Tried to share on FB & it wasn’t this story.

    Dorothy July 29, 2015 7:07 am Reply
  • This is a wonderful idea. Thank you all.

    Lisa R. Miller July 29, 2015 7:21 am Reply
  • Dogs are a great friend to humans, I cannot imagine wanting to expose them to constant grief like this. This isn’t even the same as a dog being exposed because his/her own family members are going through tough times and eventually it gets better. This is a dog being exposed to all kinds of people and grief, as a job! While it’s nice to see the kind thoughts, good intentions, and compassion for the humans, it seems quite lacking for these dogs and that is quite sad. People appear determined to find every possible way to exploit other animals.

    Paja July 29, 2015 8:06 am Reply
    • You bring up a good point. Dogs take their jobs and responsibilities quite seriously. It is a fact that search-and-rescue dogs become EXTREMELY depressed once survivors have been found and they are finding only cadavers. Their handlers then arrange to have a volunteer get into a hidden area in the disaster location for them to find, so the dogs will have the satisfaction of rescuing a living being. It might be a good idea to take the funeral attendant dogs to a party where no one is mourning once in a while so they can absorb some joy.

      Guest100 July 29, 2015 12:44 pm Reply
  • And another reason why we have our beloved animal s. To the day when animals get the justice they deserve

    skylar July 29, 2015 9:11 am Reply
  • Just one more amazing way dogs comfort and sustain us through our lives.

    joanne k. July 29, 2015 9:17 am Reply
  • My understanding is that these dogs are owned by people in the funeral industry and; therefore, go home each day with their owner. Also, being a therapy dog means they are trained to “read” people’s emotions and to behave in a gentle manner etc. I’m sure the staff is also trained to observe the dog’s behavior and that this dog gets plenty of down and also play time during the day. Since not everyone attending a funeral is fond of dogs, I’m sure this is also taken into consideration, but it’s in a dog’s nature to be a human’s companion. It’s a win-win situation.

    Darlene Uhlenkott July 29, 2015 9:48 am Reply
  • I see this as a wonderful idea. I am sure that Lulu is treated with respect and is well cared for.

    I read an article in the paper about a company that rents puppies and kittens for parties of all types from children to sorority parties to meet girls. This of course was in California. Now I think I would fear the mishandling or worse, cruelty.

    So I think having therapy animals at a funeral home is FANTASTIC!

    Sue July 29, 2015 3:52 pm Reply

    Brenda Schauber July 29, 2015 5:06 pm Reply
  • Pingback: funeralOne Blog » Blog Archive 9 Alternative Ways to Help Families Grieve

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