Geelong-based Kings Funerals introduces Australia’s first funeral home comfort dog

Geelong-based Kings Funerals introduces Australia’s first funeral home comfort dog

Meet Womble, Australia’s very first funeral home comfort dog.

Grief therapy dogs, also known as comfort dogs, have been around for some time now and they are an increasingly common sight in funeral homes, aged care facilities and hospitals across the globe, especially in the US — and with good reason. These sweet, specially trained dogs provide unconditional love and comfort to families as they deal with the grief of losing a loved one.

In a first for the region, and Australia for that matter, Kings Funerals has introduced its newest member Womble, a gorgeous dog to bring much-needed comfort to the grieving families that Kings support across the Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast and Golden Plains regions in Victoria.

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Inspired by the unique 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,” says 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,” says 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. I think that’s something we can all agree on.

Womble is not only a great service to grieving clients and children, but has 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.

With four venues located in Geelong, Newcomb, Ocean Grove and a new beach style space recently launched in Torquay, Kings understands the importance of community support.

Beth and her team are passionate about extending Womble’s commitment to the community, with aged care facility visits to commence once COVID-19 restrictions ease.

Find out more about Kings Funerals here