May 27, 2015 5:17 pm
Updated: May 27, 2015 7:22 pm

‘He’s definitely bringing more smiles’: Funeral home welcomes canine companion

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WATCH ABOVE: A funeral home in Wetaskiwin has a new staff member to comfort grieving families. Kent Morrison has more on Morris the dog. 

EDMONTON — Baker Funeral Chapel in Wetaskiwin didn’t get a lot of drop-in visitors. In fact, people wouldn’t usually go there unless circumstances – usually quite sad ones – made an appointment necessary.

But that all changed when Morris became a regular fixture.

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“He just sort of fell into the comfort dog role,” said Allie Wombold, Morris’ owner and a funeral director.

Wombold’s family adopted Morris – a Polish Lowland Sheepdog – about one month ago.

His nature – and his name – sealed the deal for them. Morris was Wombold’s grandfather’s name.

“We didn’t even question it. This seemed to be what we both fell in love with: every quality about him.”

Morris was adopted to be a family pet, but Wombold didn’t want to leave him alone all day, so she brought him to work to see how it would go.

“I think it’s definitely bringing more smiles than what we’re used to seeing in the funeral home.”

She said the four-year-old dog has a way with clients and seems to read their emotions perfectly.

“He just kind of comes out and introduces himself and reads their reaction. If they pet him, then he’ll linger as long as possible. If there’s not a huge interest, he just comes back into the office.”

“They feel more at ease and less stressed and kind of can put their sadness aside for even just a moment.”

Dogs are already used to provide comfort in other situations, including with children in the courtroom or during child abuse investigations.

READ MORE: Dogs help child victims open up about their experiences 

Wombold sees just how effective that comfort can be for grieving families.

“Just recently we witnessed a family… that really clung to Morris.”

“They literally were sitting – the day of their loved one’s funeral – on the floor, cross-legged with Morris for hours… we know that there was a connection there.”

She said having Morris as part of the team makes their jobs easier.

“Our purpose is to help a family… whether that’s helping them with paperwork or giving them a dog to pet to feel comfort with.”

Wombold said their pup is also making the funeral home more accessible to the community. People are dropping by just to meet Morris and say hello.

The next step? Getting Morris some official credentials. The Edmonton Humane Society has reached out to help get Morris trained and certified in Animal Assisted Therapy.

“It makes him credible,” said Wombold. “He’s not just a fluffy dog that comes to work. He’s got a real purpose.”

© 2015 Shaw Media

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