They are therapy dogs who comfort grieving families at funeral homes across the country.
Increasingly, funeral home directors are adding comfort animals as a service to help friends and relatives deal with the loss of a loved one.
“The families love it,” Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association, told “Today.” “An animal changes the mood of the room.”
While the group does not track the number of therapy animals, Koth said it is on the rise.
In addition to their duties at funeral homes, some of the dogs also visit hospitals, nursing homes and libraries, where they are part of programs in which people read to children.
Tim Hoff, director of Hoff Funeral Homes in Minnesota, got the idea to get a therapy dog after attending a convention for funeral service professionals, according to the Winona Daily News. The Hoff family got Charlie from a breeder who specializes in therapy and service animals.
“He’s just a lover,” Ashley Czaplewski, funeral director and Charlie’s handler, told the Daily News. “He seems to know exactly who needs his attention, and he sits right at their feet. It’s like he can see who’s struggling the most, even if we can’t.”
Before the dogs can start comforting the grieving, they undergo training, testing and certification to ensure they can handle the work.
Judd spent a year in obedience classes and training before he was certified a grief therapy dog.
“Judd displays that loving, gentle nature: ‘Everything is good. Just focus on me and I’m going to make it OK,’” Shari Wallace, his handler at Armes-Hunt Funeral Home, told “Today.” “He’s like a sponge: He absorbs your stress and your fear and your anger. People could be crying or hanging their head, but when he approaches, he becomes a distraction from their emotions.”