Dogs are angels, any dog owner can attest to that.
Sometimes it feels like they are incredibly talented at reading emotions, or know when something is up. But for Basil the beagle, he puts that talent to use on a regular basis.
11-year-old Beautiful Basil is a ‘Comfort Companion’ at Clive Pugh Funeral Directors in Shrewsbury. His job includes a variety of responsibilities like sitting beside grieving families as they make funeral plans, accompanying mourners to the chapel of rest while they visit their loved ones and even attending funerals in churches and crematoriums.
His owner Rosalinda believes that Basil has a special sense of knowing just what a grieving person needs when they're suffering from loss. As a comfort companion, he's been working for five years comforting the bereaved.
There is some scientific truth to Basil's talent. Many studies have shown having a dog around can lower blood pressure and release hormones like serotonin, dopamine, prolactin and oxytocin that are known to make people 'feel good'.
Rosalinda explains: “Human beings can, understandably, feel uncomfortable when dealing with grief and loss. Basil follows the lead of service dogs often used in health care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
“When families are arranging the funeral of their loved, their minds tend to be all over the place. Basil is very perceptive and seems to know that they need to be comforted and as such will sit beside them letting them pat him and stroke him. You can really feel the tension leaving the room."
This kind of support is vital and families often remark on how helpful having Basil has been for them.
“He is a real ice-breaker. He greets people when they arrive and he automatically seems to put people at ease. It feels almost normal for them to be able to stroke a dog. If people come with young children, he helps distract them too so they can fuss him while their parents make arrangements," says Rosalinda.
“We affectionately call Basil our ‘Comfort Companion.’ He provides families with unconditional love and support, as well as a subtle distraction from grief. When you have lost a loved one, sometimes it seems like nothing can make you feel better.
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"That is, until you get a cuddle from a therapy dog. We hope that for those experiencing grief when they come to us, having Basil will put smiles on their faces, at least for a moment. It’s just something to lighten the load of that journey.”
Basil joined the family business in 2016, at the tender age of six. Clive and Rosalinda’s daughter had taken care of Basil since he was a puppy, but she was finding it difficult to give Basil the long walks he loves after having their first grandchild.
Clive and Rosalinda were happy to step in. Rosalinda wanted to give Basil a job and researched funeral therapy dogs online. While they are more common in American than they are here, she knew that Basil had just the right temperament to work as a therapy dog here.
She says: “Beagles are most well known for their scenting ability, which has led to them being used as hunting dogs, but Basil has embraced his pastoral role. Basil loves meeting people in or out of the office. He is a very affectionate and loving Beagle.
"However, those who are not keen on dogs need not fear having Basil’s presence when making arrangements. We are keen to point out, families are always asked if they are happy to have Basil with them and if they would prefer not to, Basil will leave the room."
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