Dogs are such great animals who can provide comfort and support to those who need it most. Emergency services like police and firefighters often employ trained comfort dogs to help people who might be traumatized or in grief.
But you don’t often see comfort dogs at funeral homes, even though that’s where many people need consolation the most. The loss of a loved one can be devastating and stressful, and mourners can always use another shoulder to cry on.
Which is why one funeral home has a very special new employee: Lilo, a Labrador Retriever who greets the bereaved, providing the comfort that only a dog can.
The three-year-old dog recently started working at Soxman Funeral Home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this month, and employees say she’s already making a huge impact.
“She just has a way of bringing some warmth to a really sad time,” Anna Nesbit, the funeral home’s director and co-owner, told WTAE.
“She just looks up at you with those eyes and the families take that all in and you just watch them take a sigh of relief.”
Lilo, whose official title around the office is “Bereavement Care Dog,” was trained by Perfect Fit Canines Service Dogs. She was one of a litter of eight puppies, all of whom have gone on to be employed as service dogs.
When the owners wanted a dog for their funeral homes, she seemed to be the perfect fit.
“She has a very sweet, gentle disposition which very much suits the needs of a funeral home,” Anna said in Facebook live video. “After some extensive training… we started to introduce her to some of the families around here during the services.”
She says that Lilo is not meant to be a distraction from the emotional grieving process, but to ease some of the tension and “intimidating feelings” some people get from funeral homes.
And after just a few weeks of service, Lilo has already made a big difference for people of all ages as they grieve their loved ones.
Clyde Boyd recalled how helpful Lilo was at the funeral of his mother, 95-year-old great-grandmother Agnes Boyd, especially to the youngest children.
“The part I really noticed was the great-grandchildren, they were very nervous and it was the first time they ever experienced anything like that, and she definitely made a difference, loosening them up, letting them be themselves,” Clyde told WTAE.
Anna says that Lilo has her own space at the funeral home, including toys and a bed, and when she’s not at work she splits her time between Anna and co-owner Brian and his family.
What a great dog. It’s clear that Lilo is bringing a lot of comfort and joy to those who need it most: people grieving for their loved ones.
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