Comfort dogs stepping into area funeral homes

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(WJHL) — Finding comfort after the loss of a loved one is never easy.

Funeral homes in the Tri-Cities are offering grieving families the comfort of a canine to help them through the healing process.

Goldendoodle, Emmie Lou, is stepping into a new role at Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home in Kingsport. She is gearing up to be a therapy dog.

Emmie is the first of her kind in Kingsport funeral homes, but it is a trend other facilities across the Tri-Cities have picked up in recent years.

“It’s not something that many people have done yet,” said Carson Correll, a funeral apprentice for Hamlett-Dobson.

He said Emmie will attend classes once she turns 12 weeks old and will be certified to be a therapy dog by age two. By that time, she will be a full-time employee at the funeral home.

Correll said his family gave Emmie her name after his grandfather, Jimmy Dobson.

“When they started this company back in 1916, Jimmy’s wife’s name is Emmalou, and his daughter, my grandmother, is Emily Childress now, so we kind of took the two names and merged them together and that’s how we ended up with Emmie Lou, that’s her middle name,” Correll explained.

The curly-haired pup has already made an impact on clients in her first week, Correll explained.

“As soon as they saw her, they all lit up. They just were excited to see that we had someone to play with and our meeting just ended up taking about three hours. Emmie was able to play with the kids the whole time,” Correll said, “As soon as they saw her, they all lit up. They just were excited to see that we had someone to play with and our meeting just ended up taking about three hours. Emmie was able to play with the kids the whole time…”

Emmie Lou was bought from a pet breeding company and in-home pet care in the Tri-Cities called Hanodoodles, LLC.

Animal-assisted therapy is becoming more common. UCLAHealth.org states therapy dogs provide an automatic relaxation response. Simply petting a dog can release serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. These are all hormones that can play a part in lightening moods, according to the site.

Preston McKee said, “It gives you a little bit of a respite from the stress of grief.”

McKee is the owner of Morris-Baker Funeral Home, in Johnson City.

“You just can’t help it. You just stop and think she’s cute because she is,” McKee said. “She can insert herself into situations that might be difficult.”

Kibbi has been providing mental stimulation for clients for more than ten years.

“And allows you to focus on the moment. Dogs are always just great at getting you in the moment. In a stressful time, that’s what people need,” McKee said.

Kibbi also visits local hospitals. The therapy dog has been visiting the children’s hospital since she was a year old.

Jeffers Home Funeral in Greeneville also has a therapy dog in its facility. The funeral home has had the dog for two years and is available upon request.

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