Funeral Home Dogs Offer Grieving Families Canine Comfort In Times Of Loss

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Finding comfort in a time of loss is never easy.

A new trend at funeral homes is offering grieving families the comfort of a canine to help them heal.

“The minute my husband and I walked in the door, Lulu actually just sort of came up to me really calm and peaceful and just sort of put her head against my leg like she knew or something,” Donna Love said.

As CBS2’s Dana Tyler reported, Lulu is a 3-year-old goldendoodle who spends her days comforting mourners in the Ballard Durand Funeral Home in White Plains.

“You could tell that the dog knew you were suffering,” she said.

Love was facing the inconceivable loss of her 7-year-old daughter Lili when Lulu offered her unique brand of affection to her and her family, trying especially to comfort Lilli’s sister Olivia.

“Matthew was having her do tricks, like she does a little prayer thing, and they were running around with her, and it just made everybody feel better,” she said.

Matthew Fiorillo is the president of Ballard-Durand, and Lulu’s owner.

“She’ll just walk over and park herself right by somebody, put her head on somebody’s knee or just curl up and just her calming presence is really what she does. That’s her job,” he said.

Lulu’s had special training to comfort the grieving, and knows once her vest goes on, she’s at work.

“It’s been a blessing for myself, and for the staff, and for the families that she comforts. Often times people come back, bring her gifts. I do house visits with her if families ask,” Fiorillo said.

Lulu had such an impact on the Love family that the now have a new dog named Champ.

After a loss in her family, 13-year-old Gianna Caralyus also found comfort with Lulu.

“Lulu takes your mind off of everything, and not you focusing that my grandpa’s gone,” she said.

Having therapy dogs in a funeral home is growing in acceptance.

Kermit is a year-old border collie working with Melissa Unfred at the Affordable Burial And Cremation Service in Austin, Texas.

“You just see people’s emotions kind of float, they change. You see from tension to like relief when you come in contact with him,” she said.

Unfred said it’s made a difference for her as well as the families she’s working with.

“Him working with me and my stress needs, and my emotion needs, it just kind of become second hat for him to do that for other people as well,” she said.

Kermit also received special emotional support training, and Lulu was trained alongside dogs who will be therapy vets for veterans.

 

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