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Difference Maker: Sir Riley Whitehead, therapy dog at Faith Funeral Home

Editor’s note: Edna Hall-Whitehead of Faith Funeral Home provides the “voice” of this week’s quadrupedal Difference Maker. 

Faith Funeral Home is a new firm in the funeral industry. They started with no families and without merging or purchasing a firm. Currently, Faith Funeral Home offers a range of personalized services to suit your family’s wishes and requirements. Their newest edition to the home’s grief support is Sir Riley Whitehead, a charming goldendoodle that is happy to help. Sir Riley offers his healing personality to those that may have lost their loved ones. Edna Hall-Whitehead says her funeral home is a trendsetter in this aspect, being the first in Florida to do so. “We tried to find something that can help with the grieving process that isn’t always the same. It’s important to us because there are so many elements in the grieving process, that we felt it was time to bring Sir Riley on board.” Their Goal is for families to have a different experience in the grief process.  

Q: How did you become a therapy dog?

The original idea was really more my owner Scott’s more than Edna’s. Last year they introduced me to their family as a surprise for Edna’s birthday. They noticed how much their clients have loved their pets. Some have brought their own to vigils and to make arrangements. After seeing the impact, I was encouraged to help. Currently, my compensation is food and treats!

Q: Why did you become a therapy dog?

There are probably a high percentage of people that own a pet and are apart of their family. Pets are incorporated in to every part of our lives. More and more places are pet friendly. Every family grieves differently, and I want to help with that progression to heal.

Q: How do people react to you?

People find me very peaceful, especially if you are a pet lover. 

I can take your mind off of what you are going through even if it’s just for a few minutes. I feel like I’m a part of the Faith Funeral Home family. 

Q: What are your plans for the future?

I just turned one, therefore, this year I’m eligible for more in depth training. As I get older, my natural instincts will pick up on distress (I got a little practice during the hurricane). Soon enough, I won’t have to be commanded to do anything. The more I mature, the less I’ll have to be told what to do and for how long. 

Q: How can people find you? 

The only family that I come in contact with now is those that know who I am. I have to get permission to be in your space. Particular families see me through Facebook posts or word of mouth. If they ask for me, and I’m available, I can come out and say hello. Every family grieves differently, and I want to be the perfect match! I’ve worked with 4 families so far.

Q: What does it take to be a therapy dog?

I pick up on unspoken auras and I have a strong sense of remembrance. If you bring a treat, I will definitely be expecting another one the next time I see you. I’m also a natural pleaser, which makes me easy to train. I’m a goldendoodle, which is said to be a natural breed for nurturing. My breed is very favorable for a therapy dog because of my natural desire to be petted and be around people that don’t like to be by themselves. 

By Myesha Williams
Herald Correspondent