When humans grieve, Womble helps

Funeral home comfort dog to help bereaved families

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WHO'S A GOOD BOY: Womble helps people who are grieving.

WHO'S A GOOD BOY: Womble helps people who are grieving.

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Meet Womble, Australia's first funeral home comfort dog.

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Meet Womble, Australia's first funeral home comfort dog.

He has already begun his journey to bring much needed comfort to the grieving families that Kings Funerals support across the Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast and Golden Plains regions in Victoria.

Comfort Dogs are increasingly employed by funeral homes in the USA to console bereaved families suffering through the loss of a loved one, while comfort dogs have also been put to great use at aged care facilities and hospitals internationally.

Inspired by the service comfort dogs provide, the Kings Funerals family spent two years searching for their perfect comfort dog, while researching best practices from around the world.

They eventually found Womble in 2019, with the assistance of a local charity. First trained as a seeing eye dog, Womble didn't meet the high standard of sight required, and was reclassified as a Comfort Dog.

"At Kings Funerals we understand the comfort a trained companion pet can provide to people experiencing grief and loss. People love Womble, he's got a really gentle, sweet, calm nature. If he senses that people would welcome it, he comes close to them, he might put his nose on their leg or just sit close for pats and cuddles," said Beth King, general manager of Kings Funerals, a family business in operation for over 65 years.

Womble lives with Kings' staff member Jo and her family, and is focused on his purpose to help the community. Once Womble's work vest is on, he knows what to do. Attuned to his environment, he has the ability to read people's emotional state and approach those looking for comfort.

As a valuable member of the Kings team, Womble is there for grieving families and helps to provide the highest levels of empathy and compassion during the funeral process.

Roxanne Neylon recently experienced Womble's comfort dog service for her father's funeral at Kings' Geelong venue.

"Funerals can sometimes feel cold, but it broke the ice, having a dog there. We had a few small children, and if they were upset, they would go and pat and play with the dog. It builds on that empathy when you have an animal there, who understands how you're feeling on a different level. I felt that the service he provided was priceless," said Roxanne.

Research shows that adults accompanied by a therapy dog during a traumatic event experienced lower anxiety compared to those who were alone. Comfort dogs have also been found to increase overall well being and coping with stressful life events. Petting a dog increases our 'feel-good' hormones; serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin; which promote growth and healing as well as reduce loneliness and stress.

Womble has also been a positive influence on the Kings team, providing comfort and a distraction on difficult days. Womble even has daily rituals, like sharing Operations Manager Briohny Fitzgerald's carrots at morning tea.

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