Staff Spotlight: Rocky Perotto, Therapy Dog - A Furry, Gentle Soul

By: Andrea Ruggieri
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It was a sunny June day in 2015 when Mike Perotto, President of Bartolomeo & Perotto showed up to our daily morning meeting with a jubilant, blonde fluffball of fur at his side announcing that this puppy would be a part of our team at the funeral home. As we basked in the glow of puppydom with happy licks and wiggly wags, we really had no idea the impact he would have on the families we serve, or on us personally. This Golden Doodle named “Rocky” not only became a team member but an important part our family here at Bartolomeo & Perotto.

Now at 3 years old, Rocky is fully trained as a Certified Therapy Dog. As with any dog, he still has his moments of “teenage angst” preferring to chase leaves outside than walk beside you like a champion canine, but that’s what is so endearing about our friend Rocky, he emits a sense of “realness.”  That realness shows in his natural ability to seek out and give comfort to those who need it. This incredible instinct is a gift.

The beauty of a dog’s perspective is that they know no boundaries, they give what is needed unconditionally. Many of us who have pets understand. We witness this gift with Rocky daily. His ability to take away intense grief, if only for a short time, gives hope that we will get through it.

How did Mike & Dave Perotto come upon this concept and decide a grief therapy dog was a good idea for the funeral home? The funeral industry offers many great networking organizations to circulate and disperse best practices. As with any industry, connecting with others and sharing ideas with like minds is crucial to giving the most current and best care possible. At a Preferred Funeral Directors International (PFDI) conference that Mike attended, he learned something that struck a chord. A Funeral Director from Krause Funeral Homes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin told a story about their grief therapy dog, “Oliver.”

Unfortunately, Oliver had passed away. The astounding part, beyond the grief of the Krause family and the funeral home staff, was the reaction of the local community. Word got around of Oliver’s death and calls flooded the funeral home. Oliver had connected with so many of these people at a crucial time. The funeral home realized they needed to let the community honor and grieve. They decided to hold a funeral service for this creature that had touched so many. They were overwhelmed at the showing of people. Over 200 people attended the service for Oliver.

This is one example of how animals deeply touch our lives. Dogs and other pets have increasingly been introduced into nursing homes, hospice centers and other human service – centered organizations with incredible results to the people they connect with. On more than one account, a person in catatonic state has virtually “come to life” through interaction with animals. Just a simple touch or an affectionate lick accesses the human soul within. Human-Animal Interactions (HAI) are clinically proven to show positive chemical changes within the human body coupled with positive behaviors as a result. Friendly contact creates smiles, happiness and positive socialization. Similarly, this interaction also brings comfort during times of duress. These phenomenon have been observed over and over again. If you think about it, you’ve probably seen it too!

Through the sharing of this powerful story about Oliver, it became clear this was something we needed to offer at Bartolomeo & Perotto Funeral Home. We are thrilled that Rocky is here with us bringing tremendous comfort to those experiencing sorrow and loss. You also may be greeted by Rocky when attending one of our grief art therapy groups or a seminar event. If you don’t mind sloppy kisses and unconditional love, just ask if Rocky is around…    and, of course he’s always up to receive love and ear scratches from those who are willing to give it. He has interacted with many families already and is available to anyone upon request.

Related Links:

Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin


Funeral Home Mourns Therapy Dog Oliver


The Story of Lulu the Funeral Service Golden Doodle, Ballard Funeral Home



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