Experiencing the loss of a loved one is devastating. It is the most stressful, disorienting and agonizing event we can suffer through. For some, the process of planning and attending the memorial services for their deceased companion is more than they can bear.
One White Plains, NY funeral home has found a way to ease that burden, if only for a short while.
Ballard-Durand Funeral Home has an extra staff member who provides a special kind of comfort to grieving clients. Her name is LuLu and she is a therapy dog. The majority of the facility’s clients have heard about their one-of-a-kind employee and specifically request Lulu’s services when they come in.
Matthew Fiorillo, the president of Ballard-Durand Funeral Home, told NBC Today that he came up with the idea of getting a therapy dog during a particularly stressful visit to the airport. Fiorillo’s flight had been canceled and he was battling the anger and anxiety of the situation when a Maltese trotted past with its owner. Just the presence of a dog was enough to soothe his rising tension.
A wave of calmness washed over me and after it happened I was like, wow, that was really powerful!
Fiorillo began researching the logistics of incorporating a dog into the delicate practice of funeral services. Lulu the Goldendoodle officially came on board the team in May of 2015. Like many dogs, she instinctively senses where, when and how she’s needed most. Fiorillo told NBC Today:
She’ll park herself right next to an older person to let them pet her one minute and the next she’s prancing around with kids. It’s been really impressive to watch.
Lulu is a calm, sturdy beacon of support for those whose lives have spun suddenly out of control. Her presence allows otherwise stoic men to weep, and gives brokenhearted children the chance to laugh again.
Fiorillo also takes comfort in Lulu’s companionship. The funeral services profession is highly stressful and very emotional. Sometimes a replenishing hug from Lulu is just what he needs to help him release his own emotions and better serve his clients.
Humans need to touch. Even just petting her can be a subtle distraction from the tremendous amount of grief people are going through.
For those who take comfort in spirituality or the belief in a higher power, Lulu’s ability to “pray” is astonishing. Chelsea Sules lost her 25-year-old brother on June 17. Her grief was stifling, but within minutes of meeting Lulu, she found herself laughing once again. She told NBC Today:
Lulu was with us for both of the wakes and out of nowhere we see her kneeling on a bench with her head down and praying in front of my brother’s casket. It blew us away.
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