How Mochi the Grief Therapy Dog Aids in 'Ruff' Times
This pup is helping families deal with loss when they need her most.
Mochi may not realize it yet, but she's destined for greatness.
The fast-growing Bernese mountain dog puppy is the newest (and furriest) member of the team at the Macon Funeral Home in Franklin, N.C. This cute ball of fluff plays a very special role providing love and support for people who visit the funeral home.
"There is just so much research to support the benefits of having animals available during times of grief, and our community is very much in need of grief support," says Tori McKay, who is Mochi's owner and the funeral home's office administrator.
"People light up when they see her," she says. "And she's happy to sit with them and take all that love for as long as they want."
McKay says she grew up in a family that always had dogs and has looked forward to having a pet who could give back. "I've always loved having dogs around, and it's been a dream of mine to introduce a therapy dog into our funeral services for years. I'm grateful for the chance now," she says.
Mochi's heredity as a Bernese mountain dog makes her naturally loyal, affectionate, and gentle—wonderful characteristics for her work at the funeral home. McKay notes that Bernese mountain dogs usually live to be about 6 to 8 years old, and she wants those years to be meaningful for Mochi.
"I want her life to hold as much purpose as possible," McKay says.
While McKay doesn't have a professional background in dog training, she says she's socializing Mochi around the office and teaching her basic manners and commands—essentials for any pet with plans to comfort their community as a therapy dog.
The almost-1-year-old puppy seems to instinctively know what a hurting family needs. McKay says that Mochi's gentle, loving nature has been a welcome salve for grieving loved ones. She said that some families use Mochi as a small break from the sometimes-difficult funeral planning process, while others will continue the planning conversation while they pet or hold the now-70-pound dog as a source of comfort.
McKay's plans for attending formal therapy dog training classes are on hold because of COVID, and she will take Mochi when she's able to. But even with no formal certification, it's clear that this pup has a heart filled to the brim with love.
McKay says it's been interesting to see how quickly Mochi's inspiring story spread. Southern Living introduced us to the pup when she was only two and a half months old earlier this year. "Then everything kind of died down after COVID hit," McKay says. "But she's learning her manners and growing and still here, making a difference."
"Everyone has loved having her here," McKay says. "When she [meets a] family, she's usually pretty excited. She and families kind of feed off one another, because they're excited to see her too. She runs in and lays down with everyone and she gets all that love."