HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) — Cumby Family Funeral Service has always strived to serve local families on their hardest day. Now, they’re bringing in an extra-soft service to help even more.
Cumby has welcomed an 8-week-old golden retriever puppy as a funeral therapy dog.
Funeral Director Deana Kelly said she had discussed it with Cumby’s managing partner Andrew Cumby, who supported the idea.
The process took about six months of research, talking with funeral homes with therapy dogs and deciding what breed to choose and who would train it.
Kelly said she found a trainer in Charlotte who specializes in training service and therapy dogs. The woman, Debbie Lange, owns Dog Knowledge, a dog training facility.
“She had never done one for a funeral home, but had for an assisted living facility,” Kelly said. “So she was eager to work with us and help us with the training and securing a dog that would be a right fit for us.”
Lange suggested Cumby adopt a golden retriever as they’re easy to train, loyal, obedient and eager to please, Kelly said.
As a funeral therapy dog, the pup will learn how to be gentle and comforting for a heartbroken family.
“It’s a very difficult time, and they’re having to make lots of difficult decisions, and for a dog to come over and just put his head on your knee and to just pet him — it takes a little bit of that stress away,” Kelly said.
She said it also can help keep children’s attention away from the scary and unfamiliar experience of visiting a funeral home and more on the fluffy dog in front of them.
“To have the dog there is a good distraction for them and helps them feel more comfortable,” she said.
The puppy doesn’t have a name yet. Kelly said the funeral home posted a contest to Facebook to pick out the perfect name. According to the post, ideas ranged from Angel and Heaven to Sunny and Marley.
The winner of the name contest will win a $100 Visa gift card and a meet and greet.
Kelly said Cumby isn’t planning on keeping the dog just for themselves. They hope to create a community service by making it available for nursing homes, hospices, schools, assisted living facilities and other places that would benefit from a smile or extra comfort.
The puppy currently is in training in Charlotte to learn basic manners, Kelly said.
“Right now, he’s going through initial puppy training, puppy imprinting, name recognition, housebreaking and those kind of things since he’s about 8 weeks old right now,” she said.
At the end of October, it will return to High Point and Kelly and other Cumby staff will socialize it and introduce it to things like wheelchairs and elevators.
Once it’s a bit older, the dog will return to Charlotte for a six- to eight-week certification to become a therapy dog. Once it completes that process, it’ll come back to Cumby for good, where it’ll start a lifetime work of healing hearts.
Information from: High Point Enterprise, http://www.hpe.com