2020 - Feb - Gazette - Dogs as Companions
Dogs as Grief Companions
I walked gingerly through the door from the garage to our house. My husband supported my arm as I moved slowly, hunched over, protecting my incisions. I was in an anesthesia-induced mental fog and feeling grief. Grief because to save my life, we just had our sixth ectopic pregnancy surgically removed and grief because this surgery meant we could no longer get pregnant without medical intervention.
But once through the door, my grief was immediately met with unconditional love and compassion. Our Lady Baby’s tail was wagging a mile a minute and she was so happy to see me. I could be exactly who I was in that moment and it was okay. I had permission to be with my grief.
Lady Baby, our Cocker Spaniel, was confirmation of the love, light and life available in the moment. Over the next couple of weeks, I spent a fair amount of time on the couch allowing my grief and healing both emotionally and physically. Lady was right there beside me. We had many conversations – some with words and some not. Petting her was calming, feeling her love was comforting and sensing her presence provided a reminder that I was not alone.
Dogs are amazing companions. Think of the number of books and movies that tell their stories – Rin Tin Tin, The Call of the Wild, Old Yeller, Beethoven, Benji, Air Bud, Marley and Me, just to name a few. There is even a professional companioning role dogs take these days as therapy dogs.
Koch Funeral Home is now offering the therapy dog services of Monroe. Monroe is certified by Therapy Dogs International and with her loving handler, Karen Keller, can be scheduled for arrangement meetings, visitations and services. As Keller said, “From the time I was young I found dogs to have a calming effect on me. No matter what the situation, dogs have always been there for me. When I am lucky to find a calming dog like Monroe, I want to be able to share her with others. I feel very fortunate to be able to give back to my community in this way.”
Grief therapy dogs like Monroe provide many positive calming benefits for people who interact with them. Research has found that they boost moods, lower stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure and relax tension in muscles. The simple act of gazing into a dog’s eyes increases our love hormone, oxytocin. These benefits are available for small children all the way up to older adults. At intense times in rooms filled with dark emotions like sadness, therapy dogs can bring some ease and light. Monroe does this at Koch. To schedule a visit with Monroe and Keller, simply talk to your funeral director and they will check availability.
And we’re excited to welcome Keller and Monroe to our March Monday’s Moments support gathering for individuals who have lost a loved one. You are invited to this and the other March event listed below:
- Monday’s Moments Grief Education and Support Complimentary Luncheon – “Grief Unites Us,” Monday, March 2 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College - Grief is the natural reaction to loss. All change involves loss, even positive change. Since we all experience change and loss, the grief experience can unite us. At this gathering we'll discuss the healing aspects of supporting one another in our grief, including the healing aspects of grief therapy dogs. Email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-404-0546 or sign up on the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page to RSVP by Thursday, February 27.
- Death Café, the third of Monday of the month, March 16 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Webster’s Bookstore Café, 133 East Beaver Avenue, State College with complimentary desserts provided by Webster’s - Please join us at our monthly Death Café where we’ll drink coffee and tea, eat cake and discuss death. Our goal is to increase awareness to help us all make the most of our lives. Together we’ll have a group-directed discussion with no agenda, objectives or themes. This is a discussion group not a grief support or counseling session. We hope to see you there!
For more information about these programs, please visit Koch Funeral Home website’s Bereavement Gatherings and Events section under the Local Resources tab. All of these events are open to the public and space is limited.
We look forward to introducing you to Keller and Monroe!
Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.