Mich. funeral home therapy dog gets funeral

Associated Press

Kalamazoo – A Michigan funeral home will honor a therapy dog that comforted people as they grieved the loss of loved ones.

Betzler Life Story Funeral Home will hold an open house Tuesday for Hollie, who died Feb. 6, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported. The golden retriever worked at the funeral home for 16 years, providing comfort for those coping with death.

“If you ever visited Hollie at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home you probably know she was the first to greet you at the door...and the first to show you her favorite treat jar,” her “life story” on the funeral home’s website said.

Hollie, left, passes along her duties to Ellie

“... In her younger years, she was quite the ball of energy, enjoying afternoons Captaining the boat with dad or leisurely picking up rocks found just about anywhere. Later, as she gracefully aged, she did what any good retiree does. She kept coming to work every day. After all, she had to train her baby sister, Ellie. Together, they made quite the pair weaving through people’s legs at visitations ...”

Holding the event is a fitting way to say goodbye to Hollie in the way she helped send others off, said Patrick Bauschke, a funeral director at Betzler.

“Mention the Betzler name and chances are people will remember Hollie,” Bauschke said. “She happily greeted people at the door, mingled throughout visitations and services, and offered a calming and comforting influence on those who needed her most.”

Scott Betzler, Hollie’s owner, was inspired to use her as a therapy dog while on the Kalamazoo Humane Society’s board of directors. The organization offered pet visitation programs to nursing homes.

“It was very different at the time to have a dog in a funeral home,” Bauschke said. “But Hollie made it the most natural fit. She’s worked thousands of funerals and visitations and helped countless people.”

Ellie, the new therapy dog taking over for Hollie.

Hollie completed temperament training at the humane society. She also visited senior communities and elementary schools.

Hollie had a soothing effect on people and “an unmatched sense of knowing just who needed her and when,” Bauschke said.

Hollie will be cremated as part of the funeral home’s Life Tails Pet Cremation service.

Ellie, an English retriever, will take over Hollie’s role at the funeral home.