20 September 2016

HEALTH - Therapy Dogs Provide Comfort in Funeral Homes

It’s become the norm to see therapy animals in hospitals and seniors residences, but now they are also working in funeral homes.

Goldendoodle Lulu has been a ‘staff member’ at Ballard-Durand Funeral & Cremation Services since May 2015.

Her role is to provide comfort and healing to people who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Matthew Fiorillo, president of the White Plains, New York, funeral home, told TODAY, "She's developed an uncanny knack for knowing who needs her. She'll park herself right next to an older person to let them pet her one minute and the next she's prancing around with kids. It's been really impressive to watch."

"Humans need to touch," Fiorillo said. "Even just petting her can be a subtle distraction from the tremendous amount of grief people are going through."

Lulu's work doesn’t just involve being there for support during the planning of the service, most of the clients request her presence at the service itself.

Hennessey Funeral Home in Spokane, Washington has also brought a dog into their business.

A four-month-old labradoodle puppy named Paddy is currently in training and has been practicing greeting people.

"He'll be able to quietly help out where needed in regard to helping people deal with emotions of grief," Scott Dahl, the managing partner at Hennessey Funeral Home and Paddy's owner, told KHQ News.

Medical studies have proven the benefits of animal therapy programs including a reduction in pain, depression, anxiety and fatigue.

With the variety of programs now in place, from prisons, to airports and funeral homes, it’s clear pet therapy has gained support well beyond the healthcare field.

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