Funeral directors are increasingly turning to dogs to help comfort mourners, the Associated Press reports.
Therapy dogs, they’re finding, not only help soothe grieving friends and family members, but they can serve to lighten up the overly somber atmosphere that is the norm in many a funeral home.
When a dog joins a group of mourners, “the atmosphere changes,” said Mark Krause, owner and president of Krause Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Milwaukee. “In a funeral home, people are typically on edge, uncomfortable. But everyone lights up, everyone has to greet the dog.”
Krause bought Oliver, a Portuguese water dog, in 2001. His wife had Oliver trained to be a therapy dog at schools, nursing homes, hospitals.
“Then my wife said, ‘Why can’t he do this in the funeral home?’ and in the 10-plus years we had him, he probably touched a couple thousand families,” Krause said. Oliver seemed to “sense grief and who needed him.”
Krause remembers one 7-year-old boy who had lost his 3-year-old sister and had stopped talking, even to his parents.
“The minute the dog came in, the boy started talking to him about his sister,” Krause said. “This little boy tells the dog, ‘I don’t know why everyone’s so upset, my sister said she’s fine where she is.’”
“I don’t suppose Oliver understood, but he looked at the boy as if he did,” Krause added.
When Oliver died in 2011 — about 150 people attended his funeral — the Krauses bought another Portuguese water dog, Benny.
While no statistics are kept on dogs in funeral homes, Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association, said, “We hear from members that more and more of them are bringing animals into funeral homes … whether it’s a certified therapy dog or just an extremely well-behaved family pet.”
At the Ballard-Durand funeral home in White Plains, N.Y., Sandy Del Duca was mourning the death of her father when Lulu, a goldendoodle, came down the stairs and greeted her.
“That dog looked into my eyes and I was done,” Del Duca said. “She seemed to know just what I needed. A funeral is a funeral, it’s not a great thing. But that dog gave the service a family atmosphere and made it more of a celebration.”
When mourners come to the funeral home to make arrangements, owner Matthew Fiorillo asks if they’d like to meet Lulu and tells them she’s available — at no extra charge — for wakes and funerals. Almost all have accepted.
Funeral directors say dogs can lighten the awkward, tense atmosphere at a wake or funeral service, and sometimes seem to know exactly who needs their help.
Gayle Armes, owner of the Armes-Hunt funeral homes in Fairmount and Marion, Indiana, says his dog Judd, a golden retriever, serves a vital function by giving mourners “something else to focus on.”
“The ones who need it, they tend to go over to him, maybe kneel and love on him and he loves on them,” Armes said.
(Photo: Lulu, a goldendoodle who works as a therapy dog at Ballard-Durand funeral home in White Plains, N.Y.; by Jim Fitzgerald / The Associated Press)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 16th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, comfort, death, dog, dogs, funeral directors, funeral homes, funerals, grief, mourning, pets, therapy dogs, wakes
From an Irish wolfhound named Finn to a Rottweiler named Maggie Mae, 29 dogs of various breeds are providing a different kind of security for travelers at Los Angeles International Airport.
The dogs have been comforting frazzled travelers for a year now, through a program called PUP, or Pets Unstressing Passengers.
Finn started last November, the day after a gunman opened fire at Terminal 3 and left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead, according to the Los Angeles Times
“I think after the shooting, Finn attracted attention because he represented something comforting,” owner Brian Valente said in an airport statement. “As passengers asked questions about Finn and started to pet him, I could see their bodies relax and their demeanors change.”
The one-year anniversary of the program was marked yesterday at a meeting of the L.A. Board of Airport Commissioners.
The dogs all wear bright red vests, and mingle with passengers in post-security-screening areas. The program is aimed at reducing the anxiety of travelers by letting them pet and play with the dogs.
The dogs are registered with Therapy Dogs, a national organization that supports pets that visit places such as hospitals, nursing homes and other special needs centers.
To see more of the dogs, click here.
(Photos: Los Angeles World Airports)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 22nd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: air travel, airport, calming, comfort, comfort dogs, comforting, dogs, emotional, finn, los angeles, los angeles international airport, maggie mae, nerves, pet, pets unstressing passengers, petting, program, pup, security, soothing, therapy, therapy dogs, travel, travelers
A 36-year-old mother turned herself in Friday, but told reporters she was trying to help the German shepherd she took from a cemetery, thinking he’d been abandoned.
“I saw the dog almost get hit on the side of the road and I stopped to see if he was okay. And I picked him up thinking he didn’t have an owner. And I was trying to help. I took him to a vet to have him checked for a microchip. I was trying to help him, that’s all,” Dana Hartness told WCNC as she arrived at the Lincoln County courthouse with her lawyer.
Boh — wearing a collar, but no ID — was seen getting into a car on Feb. 28 at Forest Lawn Cemetery, which his owners live next door to. He became a social media sensation in the weeks after his disappearance as cemetery visitors posted remembrances online of how he had comforted them there.
He was found Thursday night wandering around Birkdale Village in Huntersville, about 25 miles away. Two sisters took him home from the shopping center and posted his photo on a Facebook page for lost German shepherds.
His owners, who had created their own Facebook page, Bring Boh Home, were told about the photo, checked it out, and knew immediately it was their missing dog. They picked him up Thursday night.
According to the Charlotte Observer, investigators had determined that Hartness, after stopping with Boh at an animal hospital, took the dog home — contrary to her claim that he ran away when she stopped her car to let him go to the bathroom.
“We know she took the dog home,” Lt. Tim Johnson said. “She had the dog there where she lives, then he got (away) the next day.”
The Observer reported that Hartness has been convicted in the past of larceny and attempted larceny, according to court records.
(Photo: Lincoln County sheriff’s office)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 8th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, arrest, boh, cemetery, charlotte, comfort, dana hartness, dog, dogs, facebook, forest lawn, found, german shepherd, lincolnton, lost, north carolina, online, pets, returned, reunion, social media, stolen, surrender, visitors, warrant
Boh, the German shepherd who comforted visitors at a cemetery next door to his home, has been found — one week after his disappearance.
The dog was found Thursday night, safe and unharmed, about 25 miles away from his home in Lincolnton, according to the Bring Boh Home Facebook page.
His owners say it was a post on the Facebook page that led them to the dog, according to WCNC.
Boh was last seen at Forest Lawn Cemetery on E. Hwy 150 in Lincolnton, N.C., on Feb. 28, when a worker saw a woman wearing scrubs put the dog in her car and drive off.
His owners, Tina Kennedy and Brad Beal, had been looking for him ever since, and they turned to Facebook for help. While, at first, no definitive tips came in on the dog’s whereabouts, the couple learned, through responses to their posts, just how much Boh had come to mean to cemetery visitors.
“I can’t tell you how much he comforted me when I have been alone over there,” read one. “I remember him just sitting by me…I thought that was so cute. I will say a prayer he is returned.”
Another post called Boh “God’s shepherd watching over loved ones gone, but not forgotten.”
Many others shared personal stories on how Boh comforted them in their time of need.
After his disappearance, and through Facebook, his owners learned that Boh would escort cemetery staff members arriving for work to their offices. He’d greet those who arrived to visit departed loved ones, sometimes accompanying them to the graves.
“He just started going over to the graveyard and hanging out with the guys as they were working on the graves out here and he just kind of became a part,” Beal told WCNC in Charlotte. “He would walk the ladies from their cars to the office every morning. He’d console the families.”
“It is heartwarming to know what we knew was special to us has turned out to be, or maybe to be, more special to some other people because he’s helping them through a hard time,” said Kennedy.
It was also through Facebook that they managed to track Boh down.
The dog was reunited with his owners last night.
Police have questioned one suspect, WCNC reported today. She told officers she picked up the dog to take him to a shelter in Greensboro, but that the dog jumped out of the car in Cornelius. No charges have been filed.
Now that he’s back home, Boh might not be visiting the cemetery anymore, Beal said. He said he’s reluctant to let Boh go back there on his own, but added that Boh’s frequent visitors are welcome to come visit him.
(Photo: Boh reunites with owner, from the Bring Boh Home Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 7th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, boh, boh found, cemetery, charlotte, comfort, disappeared, dog, dogs, escort, facebook, forest lawn cemetery, found, god's shepherd, graves, graveyard, lincolnton, missing, north carolina, pets, reunion, reunited, search, shepherd, staff, stolen, visitors
Janice Lloyd, the voice of USA Today’s Paw Print Post, wrote a spectacularly moving piece yesterday about her brother’s golden retriever and the dog’s newfound bond with her aging father.
The dog, Lloyd writes, “has adopted my father since last Thursday, giving him a comfort he can find no place else right now.” At 93, she says, her father is showing signs of dementia, and since his wife fell and broke her hip on a recent vacation cruise, leading to a stay in a nursing home, he’s been staying with his son, Lloyd’s brother, in Delaware.
“My dad gets teary at night when he has to leave his bride in the home. He doesn’t understand why he can’t sleep with her. We explain that he can’t stay there. He thinks she seems OK and can go home. The conversation recurs nightly, often more than once.”
Sophie, the nine-year-old golden retriever, “seemed to sense immediately that Dad needed a care taker. She rose to the occasion. She curls up with him on the sofa and puts her head in his lap. My dad rubs her head and smiles at her. My brother says ‘she doesn’t even do that with me …’
“When it’s time for dad to go to bed, she goes downstairs with him and jumps up on the kingsize bed and stays the night,” Lloyd wrote. Her brother says when her father gets up early in the morning for a trip to the bathroom, he tells Sophie to wait for him in bed. When he comes back, he’ll say “Good girl, Sophie. I’m glad you stayed. Let’s go back to sleep. ”
A veteran of World War II, Lloyd’s father visits his wife in the nursing home every day, often falling asleep in a chair as he holds her hand.
Back at his son’s home, Sophie is the comforter.
“When I drove him to my brother’s from the nursing home Sunday night, Sophie ran up to the side of the car where Dad was sitting. She smiled at him. My brother says Goldens smile. Now I believe it. She greeted my Dad when he got out of the car. She never left his side while we watched a little TV before going to bed.”
Sophie, she says, ”offers a comfort none of us can give him.”
(Photo by Janice Lloyd / USA Today)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 27th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aging, animals, bond, comfort, dog, dogs, elderly, golden retriever, humans, janice lloyd, nursing home, ohmidog!, parents, paw print post, pets, psychology, relationship, sophie, usa today
Perhaps you’ve heard people say this: Two dogs are just as easy as one. Or, three dogs are just as easy as two.
It’s not so.
Bearing in mind that it depends in large extent on the individual dogs, and having a routine carved out for them, the amount of time and energy spent on caring for multiple dogs doesn’t just double with two dogs, or triple with three dogs. When it comes to multiple dogs, basic math goes out the window.
Among my observations so far — based on my hosting three guest canines for Christmas, two of which have arrived so far to join me and my own dog Ace:
– Three dogs, who you would think would drink three times the amount of water as one, actually drink eight times the amount.
– Three dogs who normally wouldn’t follow you from room to room, all follow you from room to room when they are together.
– Three dogs, as all three have to do whatever one does — be it drinking water, peeing, barking or jumping on the human – actually engage in 18 times the amount of activity that they would on their own.
My newest arrival is a young Boston terrier named Darcy, who possesses an energy level equivalent to a whole litter of Energizer bunnies. She’s constantly on the go. She likes to get up on the couch or a chair, so she’s at eye level with Ace, and then slap her paws into his face. Ace responds by taking Darcy’s paw, leg, or entire head into his mouth, at which point Darcy freezes until Ace lets go. Then they do it all over again. Cheyenne, the visiting blind dog, stayed out of those frays.
Darcy’s humans brought plenty of toys, which everyone is sharing nicely. Cheyenne went nuts over Darcy’s tug toy, whipping it around and flinging it, trying to find where it went, then doing it all over again.
Darcy meanwhile took a strong liking to Cheyenne’s bed — pulling it out of the crate, attempting to impregnate it (though she’s a female), nursing on its bulges, and finally trying to pull the stuffing out of it, at which point I had to separate her from her lover/mother/prey.
Somebody pooped in the house (I’m not pointing any fingers), a feat which, fortunately, the others — so far — haven’t felt the need to duplicate.
All three took turns resting on the couch, engaging in play and gnawing on one well-chewed marrow bone.
As evening fell I learned that walking three dogs is 8.7 times harder than walking one, 23.5 times harder when you thrown in the ice, and it left me 10.6 times more tired than I should have been.
Back from the park, after dinner and a few more spurts of play, the gang finally started settling down, and we all sacked out on the couch — except for Ace, who knew he wouldn’t fit. He settled for putting his head only on the couch for a few minutes, then sprawled out at the foot of it.
You know that feeling you get when the day is done, and your work is finished, and you look over at your peacefully sleeping, or even just resting dog — that soul-comforting, all-is-right-with-the-world flush of warm contentment, better even than a crackling fire, hot chocolate, or a steaming bowl of macaroni and cheese?
Turns out multiple dogs make that feeling rise exponentially, too.
On my three dog night, with the blind one curled up between my legs, her head resting on my feet; the big one on floor by the couch, reaching for me now and then with his paw; and the little Boston terrier resting, finally, on my belly, I realized I was feeling 9.9 times more peaceful and harmonious than usual.
(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 24th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, bed, behavior, blind, blind dog, boarders, boston terrier, cheyenne, christmas, comfort, company for christmas, contentment, darcy, dog, dogs, energy, group dynamics, guests, math, mulitiple dogs, pets, play, relationships, three dog night, three dogs, toys, visitors, work, yellow lab
A memorial service was held this week for Baxter, the California therapy dog who, though losing much of his fur and the use of his legs, continued to bring comfort to the dying up until his own death this month at age 19 1/2.
The service Wednesday at the San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine drew nearly 100 friends, family and staff, according to an Associated Press report.
Baxter’s owner, Melissa Joseph, pulled the dog — a chow-golden retriever mix — from room to room in a red wagon and would lift him onto patient’s beds for a visit. (If you haven’t seen the video of Baxter, click here.)
“He licked tears from grieving faces, gave hugs to those at a loss for words, and warmed the hearts and souls of those who were making their transition,” Joseph wrote in her online eulogy. “Everyone loved Baxter.”
Lisa McCullough, spiritual counselor for the inpatient care center, said some patients who refused to share their life stories with staff would talk freely if Baxter was in the room. “And sometimes they opened up about the end of their life’s journey,” McCullough said. “I think Baxter made them feel safe and valued. He has helped just countless patients discover purpose and peace and connection in the last phase of their lives.”
Joseph and her husband, Dennis Bussey, released a book in June called “Moments with Baxter,” a collection of 36 stories about Baxter and his work. Proceeds from the book to go to the hospice and charities that support animal causes.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 30th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: baxter, care, comfort, dogs, dying, end of life, hospice, institute for palliative medicine, life, medical, melissa joseph, memorial, moments with baxter, patients, san diego, service, therapy dog, video, wagon