Attending a funeral is one of the saddest, most inhumane experiences we face. We face the loss of a loved one multiple times in our lives, and we can never truly recover. Having dogs at funerals can add some humanity to a rather inhumane scenario.
How Dogs Can Help
Pets lower cortisol levels, the “stress hormone,” and provide relief from depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Some neurotransmitters, including oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, have also been studied to identify how they are affected when we interact with our pets.
Grief-therapy dogs only attend funerals at the request of a family. Their presence is usually posted at the entrance to the venue, so anyone who is allergic to dogs or afraid of them is aware of it. The family ultimately can choose whether or not to have a dog at their funeral. The only drawback to having a grief-therapy dog is the possibility of allergy for attendees.
Grief therapy can provide a calming presence for people, especially children, attending the funeral. They can also relax people who have never attended one before, don’t know what happens at a funeral, or have a fear of funerals. These dogs can also help support bereaved children who have lost someone very close to them, especially if they are going to speak at the funeral.
The Use of Dogs is Growing
Few funeral homes have been using grief therapy dogs since 2015. That number may go up!
Since grief-therapy dogs can provide families and friends calm and relaxation at a rather stressful time, more funeral homes should be using them. However, not all funerals will use the funeral home’s grief-therapy dog because of allergies.
These dogs are usually kept at the home of one of the employees. They are brought to work every day to calm the funeral guests.
The dogs are an asset to the funeral home, but to be most effective, the funeral home must be kept clean. If a select funeral party does not want a grief-therapy dog at the funeral, the hair and any other remnants of a dog need to be cleaned and away.
Grief-therapy dogs are used in other places such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, and psychiatric clinics. Grief-therapy dogs are being used in those places with much success.
Since dogs attending funerals is still a relatively new practice, the success that these dogs show at other sites of grief should push more funeral homes to get one or more grief-therapy dogs.
The Benefits are Endless
Researchers have discovered that patting dogs causes a spike in serotonin levels. Elevated serotonin levels can give you a sense of calm, reduce anxiety and promote feelings of happiness.
There have been multiple tests on people of all ages, and all tests show that having a grief-therapy dog present lifts the mood of all people. Even though, for some, it may only be a slight increase in spirit, the presence alone makes the high grief situation less grueling.
According to studies, adult dogs have mental abilities, vocabulary, and emotional intelligence on par with a human toddler. In some instances, dogs may not fully understand how you feel, but they still choose to move in and comfort you.
Among other animals, dogs have the highest level of empathy. Their instinct is sharp. They may not understand every word we utter, but they can surely unravel the hidden messages in our facial expressions and body language.
So, when the grief-therapy dog gives you licks and cuddles while you’re crying, know he’s doing his best to make you feel better.