In the spring of 2018, Hamilton’s decided to test run a dream of family owner, Holly Miller, to have companion animals at the funeral home. Encouraged by research and the growing trend across the funeral industry, the Family Support Dog Program was born!
We have now seen firsthand how the animal presence in this environment has been helpful for both adults and children. They provide those that are grieving with comfort and helps relieve some of their tension and anxiety. From research we know that stroking an animal has physiological effects: increasing serotonin and dopamine levels - which can boost mood - and it helps to lower stress and blood pressure.
Currently, we have three dogs in our Family Support Dog Program and you can learn more about each dog below! You’ll often hear from guests “what a wonderful surprise” it is when Bear pops into a visitation, ready to sit and give high 5’s to all the kids. Or see a child light up when they see Lola ready for belly rubs when they come in for funeral arrangements. And Finland’s gentle demeanor is a welcoming, calming presence for all she greets upon arrival to our East Village location.
Lola is a Teddy Bear (Shih Tzu and Bichon Frise) that came from Denning Farms in Houghton, Iowa.
She loves to go on walks, play tug with her blanket, and take naps in the sun. Her favorite part about coming to work is interacting with the families we serve, but even more so, bringing comfort to the children of these families. Oftentimes, you will find her on her back waiting for a tummy scratch!
You’ll find Lola wandering around our Hamilton’s near Highland Memory Gardens location where she comes to work with her mom, Amber Elliott, Family Services Coordinator.
Finland “Finn” is a Merle Great Dane that came from Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee.
Finland absolutely loves playing with all dogs, going on walks and splashing around in the lake. She is known as a gentle giant and is incredibly docile. Her favorite thing to do is to “camouflage” herself behind peace lily plants around the funeral home! Finland looks forward each and everyday coming to work, getting to interact with the families that we serve as well as our staff.
Finland can be found strolling around our corporate headquarters, Hamilton’s Funeral Home in the East Village where she comes to work with her mom, Morgan Haugland, Family Services Coordinator and First Floor Manager.
Bear is a Chow mix who is a rescue pup that was adopted at 3 months old.
Bear loves meeting new friends at work, especially kids! He loves when he gets to help with our children’s grief programs, Little Hands (for children 3 1/2 to 6 years old) and Healing Hearts (for 1st-6th grade children). He loves showing the kids all of his tricks and is very treat- motivated! He is currently in training to become a certified therapy dog.
During his off time he enjoys going to outside events around Des Moines and picking on his kitty siblings who are not his biggest fans!
Bear spends most of his days at Hamilton’s on Westown Parkway where he comes to work with his mom, Buffy Peters, Director of the Academy of Grief & Loss.
For more information about Hamilton's Family Service Dogs, please contact HFHAcademy@HamiltonsFuneralHome.com