A local mortician is taking her job one step further by providing comfort to grieving families in a unique way.
She has trained and certified the first therapy dog for funeral care in Texas.
One-year-old Kermit the Border collie has quite an undertaking at Affordable Burial and Cremation.
“He is a therapy dog, a certified therapy dog, but he is actually the first certified therapy dog working in funeral service in Texas,” said Melissa Unfred, Kermit’s owner.
Unfred knows how difficult planning and attending funeral services can be.
She is also aware how helpful therapy dogs are for those dealing with grief.
“It kind of takes the tension out of the room to have another being there,” Unfred said.
What Melissa didn't know at the time was how much training Kermit would have to complete before getting certified. “We took our Canine Good Citizenship test through Petco and after that we enrolled in Austin Dog Alliance for their therapy dog classes to see if he would qualify and pass the test to be certified to work for their team with me,” said Unfred.
Dogs must be at least one year old before they can even be considered for therapy dog training.
“I really think I lucked out with his personality being so chill,” Unfred said.
Melissa believes it was a calling for her young pup who passed his test May 20. “He really enjoys being around people and he gravitates to those who seem to need him the most and we've seen it time and time again,” said Unfred.
Now the two work together when someone comes in to plan a funeral
“If we're sitting down with a family making arrangements here at the office and he comes through the room, he may just go up to somebody and put his head near their knee and it's like an automatic reflex, they'll put their hand out and start to pet him and it's like a big sigh of relief,” Unfred said.
Kermit has also attended about two dozen funeral services, providing comfort during a difficult time.
“At funeral services, we've seen people come up to him. He usually sits by the register book and so people will come put their hands on him and touch him and he's just there for others,” said Unfred.
Melissa said Kermit has been very beneficial for those in mourning.
She's hoping other funeral service providers will follow her lead.
“I really encourage other funeral homes to consider doing this. Of course, always ask your families if it's something they're interested in having around, but I think the important thing funeral homes need to realize is they need to go through the proper process in order to call their animal a therapy animal,” Unfred said.
Kermit also visits hospice centers and hospitals with Melissa.
To learn more about Kermit and his heartwarming services, click here.
You can also follow Kermit on Instagram.