Why a Maryville funeral home has a dog on staff

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Perhaps the gloomiest days come after losing a loved one.

"This is not a place people want to come, it's a have-to come place," said Jenni Bryant, funeral director at Smith Funeral and Cremation Services in Maryville.

The funeral home has a new employee. One who has been lifting people up during their heavy times.

Tuck, a one-year-old golden doodle, is a trained and certified grief therapy dog.

"When you walk in and see Tuck in his chair, it takes that edge off for just a minute, it makes people forget why they're here," said Bryant, who is also Tuck's owner.

Tuck has been working at the funeral home since he was seven weeks old, comforting hurting families.

"It's almost like he bears some of that burden himself to help people who are here grieving," said Smith Funeral and Cremation Services president, Jason Chambers. "Somehow he understands more than I ever thought possible."

When he's not working, Tuck is just a normal pup. He even has an Instagram account. But when he is at work, he sits in his chair in the lobby, patiently waiting for people to walk in the door.

"He can tell when people come in that they don't want to be here and he gets up out of his chair and greets people when they come in. He can even sense when people are afraid of him and he stays away," said Bryant.

"Not only does he bring comfort to the families he brings comfort to the staff here at the funeral home," added apprentice funeral director Andrew Goodman. "His main role is to just be here and be present."

Research has proven animals can help with depression and anxiety in humans.

"He'll lay his head on someone's leg or his paw on someone's lap," said Chambers. "We've had instances where he's sat through an entire funeral service on someones lap, the entire service in the chapel."

In a time where people are struggling most, Tuck, a silent companion, brings the comfort most words can't.

"It's just something we can do that's a little extra. We know it's not going to take their pain away. Even if it can just help for just a minute," said Bryant.