Therapy Dogs Can Help with Grief

By: Andrea Ruggieri
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wikipedia describes a therapy dog as “a dog that might be trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with autism.” We hope to add “funeral home” to that list.

Last August we introduced a small golden doodle named “Rocky” to our funeral home. Loveable and full of spunk, he happily comes to the office every week day acclimating himself to the funeral home and his work family. From the day this idea was conceived he’s been intently training to become a certified therapy dog. The goal is that he is fully trained by the end of 2016.

The obvious gut reaction of most is, “What a great idea!” The obvious question is, “How will this dog perform his duties to the families that choose to have him be a part of their funeral services?” 

For instance, maybe you’re not sure how to help your child (or yourself…) approach and say a silent prayer to the departed? Rocky is learning how to accompany anyone to the casket that may need that extra support. He’s even learning to bow his head in prayer! Did you ever consider that “man’s best friend” might help during your most difficult struggles? Ultimately, his overall purpose will be to provide comfort, unconditional love and that “warm fuzzy” that may fill an emotional need. I think many of us understand, and can relate to the incredible connection an animal can have when it’s needed the most.

Consistent and thoughtful training will add the necessary discipline to a meaningful and symbolic gathering whether it is a visitation or formal funeral service. Our vision is that Rocky will provide an option to families that are open to the idea that you can receive comfort from different sources. At the same time, we will be sensitive to those who do not wish to have him present.

Maybe you have already met Rocky! Today Rocky is already lending support to various families as they begin their grief journey. He has greeted and visited with many families during funeral arrangements with positive reaction. We look ahead with optimism that Rocky will someday join our staff as an official grief therapy dog. So keep your eyes open for the furriest member of Bartolomeo & Perotto funeral home team, he may just offer you a wet kiss.

For more information and insight on therapy dogs in funeral homes, visit:

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