Furry Funeral Home Employee
A Dallas area funeral home is using a grief therapy dog to console clients going through the process of burying loved ones. Candy, a 16-month-old , works at the Rest Haven funeral home where she is often called upon to offer emotional support.
Candy’s off-hours caretaker and funeral employee Sharon Satterwhite says that Candy has a sense of who needs a little extra love.
Rest Haven funeral director Maria Estes was inspired to get a therapy dog after attending an International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association where she heard about Oliver, a Milwaukee funeral home’s comfort dog.
Linda Marler, Baylor Health Care Animal Assisted Therapy program coordinator, notes, “Dogs just give unconditional love, and they will sit there and absorb all your sadness. You can sit and hold onto a dog, and it just makes you feel so much better.”
Baylor Health Care started its therapy dog program in 1985. Marler remembers, “Back then, you got a lot of nay-saying from some of the physicians. It was hard to get the dogs in some of the sites.” The Baylor program currently has 94 dogs. Each one is owned by volunteers that go to one of 32 locations. The therapy dogs help ease anxiety or assist in outpatient physical therapy with children. Common breeds used include Boxers, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.
Candy’s training included a program with Patriot Paws, which provides service dogs to wounded veterans. She’s now in the fine-tuning phase, and Rest Haven plans to take her out soon to schools, nursing homes, and special events. She will also be a fixture at the funeral home, helping families deal with their loss.
Satterwhite adds: “It makes you smile; you can’t help it; even if you’re smiling through your tears.”