In a totally different setting, a specially-trained therapy dog provides comfort and console to people. Lucy, a six-year old golden doodle, has been on staff at Pellerin Funeral Home in New Iberia for five years.
Though Lucy was trained as a therapy dog since she was one year old, owner Angie King refers to her as a comfort dog because of the nature of her work easing stressful situations.
During visitations at a wake, the white, soft-fluffy dog walks calmly in the funeral home lobby, accompanied by King, waiting for someone who needs comforting to reach out and pet her, sometimes slowly approaching them. Like any caring friend, she looks into their eyes and reads their body language to gauge their emotional state.
“It’s a pleasant surprise for clients, particularly children, as they walk into the funeral home. As they pet Lucy, it visibly eases the pain just a little,” King says.
Time and time again, King has witnessed the power of Lucy’s compassionate gaze and her uncanny sense of knowing who needs comfort. She recalls one case in particular, “We had a child whose mother had died and she couldn’t bring herself to go into the room with the casket. Lucy calmed her fears and eventually walked her into the room, making her feel a little more comfortable.”
The idea of a therapy dog is still relatively new to Louisiana; Pellerin’s was the first in Acadiana to offer this service. After seeing an article in a trade publication, King, a former funeral director, did some deeper digging and ended up purchasing Lucy in Alabama. She and her husband George, who is director at Pellerin’s, presented the idea to the owners.
King is now Lucy’s full-time handler, also bringing her on regular visits to assisted living and nursing homes to brighten the day of residents. At St. Edward School in New Iberia, Lucy is often sprawled on the library floor where she is entertained by the children in the “Read with Me” program.
Although you’d never know it from her actions, after a day of comforting others, Lucy does let King know when she is ready for a rest. In her downtime, she is like any other dog who enjoys the outdoors, chasing lizards and squirrels.