The death of a loved one is extremely stressful to say the least, and devoting your life to easing mourners through the process can also take a heavy toll. That’s why Melissa Unfred, a funeral professional in Austin, Texas, decided to adopt a rescue puppy. Kermit became an instant comfort and source of stress relief for her, and Unfred soon realized that he had the calm, perceptive demeanor of a natural-born grief therapy dog.
Kermit has already earned his canine good citizenship certification, and as soon as he turns one-year-old he can add ‘Texas’ first certified grief therapy dog’ to his list of accomplishments!
Unfred adopted Kermit from Waco Fuzzy Friends Rescue when he was just 4-months-old. At home he is a typical Border Collie Mix – playful, energetic and inquisitive – but at the funeral home with Unfred, Kermit instinctively adjusts his behavior to fit the emotional atmosphere.
“His demeanor would start to fit perfectly with the situation,” she told KVUE News. “A lot of people have been really surprised that he’s not hyper. You see that as a hand will go out to pet him, it’s like an immediate sigh of relief. I’ve seen it over and over again, whether we’re at a funeral or a nursing home or somebody has just passed away, he is there to be a calm presence.”
The pup’s most special gift isn’t something that can easily be taught. He somehow identifies the “primary griever” – the person who needs him the most in a room full of mourners – and positions himself supportively at their side. He does this without any command, and often without Unfred even realizing he’s walked off.
Kermit’s gentle, intelligent nature is not lost on Bob Falcon, the owner of Affordable Burial and Cremation Service where Unfred works.
“There have been times when I’m sitting down with a family and Kermit walks into the arrangement office,” Falcon said. “I’m sitting there at the desk with the family going through a tough moment, and he will come up and introduce himself. He will just sit and have a presence. He has a knack to find the person who is hurting the most.”
Funeral directors across the country are realizing the incredible benefits that grief therapy dogs can provide to their clients and themselves. It’s wonderful to know that dogs like Kermit are available to ease people through the stress and grief of saying the final goodbye to a loved one.