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Therapy Dogs Help Families Grieve

TIPTON, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- If you own a pet, you already know it, but now scientists in Europe have proof: when you're feeling sad, your dog can sense what you're going through.

It might help to explain a new trend popping up in Iowa -- funeral directors are using dogs to help families deal with death.

Funeral homes in Marshalltown, Maquoketa, and Tipton are all using man's best friend to help people get through one of life's toughest moments.

It was the motivation for Debra Fry to bring Gurt, the 9-month-old Burnese Mountain Dog on staff at Fry Funeral Home in Tipton. She said Gurt is really comforting for children.

"We had one family where the mother said, 'We just kept telling the kids there was a puppy there,' and it made a difference," said Fry.

It's true for anyone who needs a paw to hold, Fry said.

"She's just kind of a go-to when it gets to be overwhelming and she provides, I hope, comfort and distraction, even if it's just a little while," Fry said.

Gurt made a big difference for Courtney Dawson when her grandmother passed away last October.

"It helped me a ton, because I was just really nervous because I was really close to my grandma," said Courtney Dawson, co-director of Lahey Funeral Home in Maquoketa.

After that experience, Dawson got Isabelle the cocker spaniel to be a therapy dog at her funeral home.

Dawson said the dogs can help through the entire process -- from arrangement to wake.

"Just having something to kind of take your mind off of the actual grief for the moment and a way to deal with their grief, it just really helps them," Dawson said.

And that is important, she said, especially when people are saying goodbye. 
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