Business Spotlight: GH Herrmann Funeral Homes K-9 Therapy Team
Writer / Kris Parker
Sometimes our greatest accomplishments are rooted in accidental events. Such is the case with the K-9 Therapy Dogs that grace the halls of G.H. Herrmann Funeral Homes. Their presence was not planned; it began through a chance encounter between Lady (a Golden Retriever) and some grieving children.
A Chance Encounter
“For many years my good friend [who trains service dogs and is big into dog rescue] and I used to take Tuesday afternoons and hit a movie with one of his ‘in training’ dogs in order to socialize them,” said Jeff Herrmann, third generation owner/operator of G.H. Herrmann Funeral Homes. “One day we stopped at the funeral home afterwards, and we brought Lady inside. Some kids in the hallway were extremely distraught. Lady walked over to them slowly; once they saw her, they were all over her. One minute before, they were crying their eyes out; the next they were playing and laughing with her. That was all I had to see; we adopted Lady the very next day. Plus, a few days later they mailed us crayon drawings of her! It was so sweet.”
Understandably, Lady still had some training to complete, as well as grow accustomed to being around so many people. However, she quickly grew into her role and has been a source of comfort to many grieving souls over the past three years. “My family founded our funeral home 90 years ago, and none of us have ever seen something as powerful at healing,” said Jeff.
Finding the Perfect Fit
Since that day three years ago, Jeff has added three more dogs to the K-9 Therapy Program, bringing their team number up to four. They have plans to bring a fifth one into service soon. Their original therapy dog, Lady, is the only Golden Retriever in the bunch; the others on staff are all Labradors.
When choosing a K-9 Therapy dog, G.H. Herrmann’s knows that the demeanor has to be beyond perfect. In addition to a natural temperament for the job, the dogs also receive up to three years of intense training. They spend their first year of life with an inmate at the women’s prison. The dogs are hand-fed and sleep with the inmates; they are one-on-one with a person 24/7. However, the training does not end there; once the dogs arrive at the funeral home, Kevin Knartzer of Bargersville Veterinary Hospital does all of their continued on-site training.
Purpose Behind the Program
While many people have taken great comfort in the availability of the dogs, Jeff and his father anticipated that there might be some fallout. However, much to their delight, G.H. Herrmann Funeral Home has yet to receive a negative comment regarding the dogs. The closest they have come was one woman who gave Lady a wide berth when she entered the funeral home, explaining that she personally had a fear of dogs rooted in her childhood. Nevertheless, she was also quick to add that she thought the K-9 Therapy Dogs were a wonderful idea.
As the dogs grow in popularity, Jeff wants people to understand that this is not a gimmick or a tactic to entice people to choose them. It is a powerful tool for healing and adds to the quality of care and service people receive when they choose G.H. Herrmann Funeral Homes. “It helps us to become an even more well-rounded firm than we already are. We are fortunate to have enough staff to make this happen. We’re not marketing the pups, but promoting them to help in the community. They add something positive to something so traumatic,” he said.
When a family is there at what is possibly the worst moment of their lives, just rubbing a dog’s ear can physically calm them. Being around a therapy dog has been proven to lower blood pressure. In addition, just like seizure dogs, the K-9 Therapy Dogs can sense when someone is suffering.
The bond between people and the dogs often becomes so close that many families return multiple times following a service, just to see the pups. During the summer, there is a group of snowbird women who always stop in and bring Lady a treat on the way to their weekly luncheon. Jax even walks with families out to visit the graves of their loved ones at The Gardens at Olive Branch Cemetery. He hangs out with them on their visit, which eases the lonely feeling of visiting a grave.
“At G.H. Herrmann Funeral Home, we want to exceed people’s expectations. Personally, I love dogs, and the ability to use dogs to help us humans when we’re suffering is a gift from God,” said Jeff.
If you would like to find out more about the daily lives of the K-9 Therapy Team, each dog has its own Facebook page and a newly created Twitter account, links to all of which can be found on the G.H. Herrmann website.
About Kristen Parker
A life-time resident of the Center Grove area, Kris graduated from IU Bloomington with a degree in Journalism. She is the blessed mother of two active, home-schooled boys, and is passionate about her faith, her family and making her budget stretch.