In Columbus, Ohio, a special therapy dog had a funeral at the Schoedinger Midtown Chapel. The 13 year old Labrador retriever, Tara, passed away from complications of laryngeal paralysis, a condition which causes dogs to suffocate.
This special dog spent several years of her life working as a Grief Therapy Dog at Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services, comforting guests who have lost a loved one. Now she is the one that is being grieved over.
According to Mike Schoedinger, president of the funeral home, Tara knew who needed comforting.
“I watched people stroke her fur and the comfort that came from this. Her steady and unwavering companionship provided consolation to so many. She taught us unconditional love.”
Roberta Knauf, Tara’s guardian, knew she loved to work. She loved putting on her therapy dog vest, and getting up every morning.
According to Tara’s obituary, a passion and weakness for balls prevented Tara from working as a service dog for persons with mobility impairment. But this time, this weakness was celebrated with a basket of tennis balls was placed at the chapel entrance, a sign reading “Tara loved her balls. In memory of her, please take one home.”
She lay in a sheet-covered casket wearing the vest she loved to wear so much. Her casket was also filled with two stuffed toys, a baseball, a small piece of peanut butter sandwich and a yellow rose.
About 25 people and four dogs attended the viewing and chapel service to say goodbye to this loving dog, the chapel filled with sobs and tears from humans, and soft whines from dogs.
“In all my life, I never thought I’d be doing a eulogy for a dog, but Tara was more than a dog to me and probably to each of you,” said Schoedinger, during the service. “She taught us a lot about supporting the grieved. She helped to lighten a mournful atmosphere while bringing peace to individuals during an upsetting time.
Tara’s legacy will be lived on by another dog Willow, whom Tara mentored, and will continue to be a grief-therapy dog at Scheodinger Funeral Homes.
But even outside of work, she continued to provide solace, even at the end, Knauf says.
At the very last moment, I remember her laying her head on my lap and looking at me as if she were comforting me.”
Rest in peace, our friend. We’ll see you on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.