For many people, cats and dogs are not just pets—they’re valued family members and friends who can bring both joy and emotional relief. Because of their friendly, gentle nature, dogs are beginning to enter the workplace as therapy dogs that have been professionally trained to provided comfort and affection to people in need, including those in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, disaster areas, and funeral homes.

With his light yellow coat and goofy grin, Wiley Linnemann is a 2-year-old golden retriever who received six months of intensive training to become a certified therapy dog. After learning how to respond to commands and react appropriately in a variety of situations, he then had to make three visits to local hospitals; be tested by a certifier for Therapy Dogs Inc. (; and be observed in a public place with large crowds (his trainer chose Bass Pro Shop on a busy Saturday morning). After completing all these tasks with flying colors, Wiley was awarded his therapy dog jacket in November 2011.

Wiley now works as a grief therapy dog for Linnemann Funeral Homes in Erlanger, Ky. As petting animals has been proven to help lower blood pressure during times of emotional trauma, Wiley can be quite helpful in relieving a grieving family’s stress.

When a family requests the therapy dog, Wiley sits with the family while they make funeral arrangements. The funeral directors at Linnemann have noticed how much the tension in the room dissipates when Wiley arrives, and how he has a calming effect on the bereaved. Wiley is also very intuitive, and he searches out the family member most in need of his comfort during these meetings.

Besides bringing comfort to the bereaved, Wiley also brings joy to the workplace by offering his attention to employees who may be having a difficult day as well. In funeral service, the funeral directors and staff often need comfort too. Now, if only we had thought about how much all that blond golden retriever hair shows up on dark clothing!

Marsha Linnemann is a registered nurse and funeral director at Linnemann Family Funeral Homes of Northern Kentucky. To schedule a visit with Wiley to your facility call 859-727-1250