Grief is a constant client for the proprietors of a funeral home. As such, each and every staff member is thoroughly trained and kept as prepared as possible to deal with it in all its many forms. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that many funeral homes employ a grief counselor or have one on retainer, but what you may not know is that more and more funeral directors have seen fit to hire some additional help in the grief counseling arena. For a growing number of funeral homes, grief therapy just isn’t complete without a grief therapy dog!
That’s right, a grief therapy dog. This is a dog that acts as another employee, greeting and comforting clients in their time of need. Some have said that once it’s been on the job a few months, a grief therapy dog becomes intuitive about who wants the attention and who does not. Even going so far as to seek out someone that is most in need of its services!
So why is this effective? Scientists have proven that petting animals will reduce stress, lower blood pressure and a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher concluded in 2004 that it will even create a hormonal response that raises serotonin levels which help fight depression!
Because basic interactions with a dog have such profound benefits, dogs come naturally to the role of grief therapist. Some of these dogs are true professionals and have undergone extensive training while others simply fall into the role. Either way, the benefit to the humans they comfort are the same.
The problem, of course, lies in the fact that some people don’t like dogs and therefore aren’t interested in any amount of attention from one. This is where training becomes a factor. Grief therapy dogs are respectful of client’s wishes and are trained only to approach if they are solicited. They do not jump up, get rambunctious or get overly excited. A good grief therapy dog is very reserved, accepting of attention but not demanding it and not only willing but happy about going to work.
And it does know it’s going to work. Most grief therapy dogs double as a house pet to one of the funeral home employees, and they invariably say that when the therapy vest comes out, the dog understands what is expected of it and acts accordingly. As much as any other employee in the office, these dogs are professionals.
Grief therapy dogs are a proven benefit and offer love, attention and care to those clients most in need of comfort. They are not only valued employees, but beloved pets. If you are interested in acquiring a grief therapy dog, you should contact your local AKC certified trainers and see if they would be able to help you. Any trainer should be able to help once they understand the behaviors you are looking for.
Not every dog is cut out to be a grief therapy dog. Just as you’d hire any other position in your office, you look for the right attitude and the right fit. However, once you find the right dog, you’ll never understand how you got along without it.