Contributed by Sandi Martinez
-by Maryann Mott; Dog Fancy Magazine
In the November 2011 issue of Dog Fancy magazine, something caught my eye: A dog that offers support to people grieving loved ones. How could this be possible? We all know that our pets can offer healing benefits that range from boosting low energy, to feeling happier, and lessening the effects of depression. Pam Turner, the owner of Aragon, her Golden Retriever-Labrador mix, brings her dog to work at Turner Funeral Home in Pennsylvania. Only a few dogs work in funeral homes nationwide.
A former social worker, Turner says that just seeing Aragon brings a smile to peoples’ faces, even amidst the sad and stressful grieving period in their lives. Just what is Aragon’s role at the Funeral Home? The 80lb dog sits calmly next to the family members, sometimes resting his head on their lap to offer support and comfort. At other times, Aragon sits patiently at the back of the room waiting for those who might feel like petting him, or hugging him.
Prior to Aragon’s stint as an Assistance Dog, he spent several intense months in training with the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence. There he learned more than 40 commands. He was then placed with Turner as a facility dog – one of four types of assistance canines CCI trains – to help aid in the emotional health of their human counter-parts.
“Having Aragon there is never going to take away the hurt they’re feeling,” says Turner of the men, women, and children the dog interacts with on a daily basis. “But it takes their minds off it for a little bit, and kind of normalizes things, too”.