Craig Bodiford, owner of K.L. Brown Funeral Homes, was wearing a dignified black suit on Thursday morning at the K.L. Brown Memory Chapel in Anniston.
Tucked underneath his suit coat, however, was a pouch full of dog treats. They were for his newest employee, Quimby the comfort dog.
Quimby, a 6-month-old Labradoodle, is the first certified funeral home therapy dog in east Alabama, according to Bodiford. The pup is specially trained to offer comfort in times of grief.
Quimby arrived on Dec. 3, and he has already worked with two families. He spent some time with a little girl whose grandmother had passed away. “He got right up in her lap, and her whole demeanor changed,” Bodiford said. “It’s very special to a child to have something to love, and to be loved.”
At another service, there were about 20 children in attendance. “They were more energetic, and Quimby was more energetic,” Bodiford said.
“When we meet with a family for the first time, we introduce Quimby. Some people are drawn to him; others are not. We let them dictate how they’d like to be involved with him,” Bodiford said.
There is no charge for Quimby’s services. He works for snuggles.
Quimby is available to work with families at both the K.L. Brown Memory Chapel in Anniston or the K.L. Brown Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Jacksonville.
Bodiford has been in the funeral business for 23 years. He purchased K.L. Brown Funeral Homes in 2016, after managing the Anniston location for 10 years.
Bodiford and his wife, Tonia, had been talking about getting a funeral home therapy dog for the past several years. They started seriously researching about a year ago.
Quimby was trained at Ultimate Canine in Indiana, starting when he was 8 weeks old. He learned three commands specific to grief counseling.
1. “Visit”: Quimby will sit quietly next to a seated person with his head on that person’s knee.
2. “Snuggle”: Quimby will lie in a person’s lap.
3. “Knuckles”: Quimby will return a fist-bump. “The kids like that one,” Tonia Bodiford said.
Quimby was named by his trainers. The Bodifords were free to change his name, but they did a little research and discovered that their dog shared a name with Darius Quimby, a New York constable who is recognized as the first American law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, in 1791.
“We kept the name Quimby to honor our local law enforcement,” Tonia Bodiford said.
The Bodifords would like to take Quimby out in the community for visits to schools, nursing homes or wherever he might be invited.
“A service dog is trained to help one individual. A therapy dog is different. He can work a room, or work a crowd,” Craig Bodiford explained.
“Quimby the Comfort Dog” has his own Facebook page (in less than two weeks, he attracted more than 200 followers — more than the K.L. Brown Memory Chapel page).
Quimby lives with the Bodifords and their 12-year-old son, Walker, as well as a second dog named Little Guy.
When he is working, Quimby wears a bright red vest that identifies him as a therapy dog.
“Once his vest comes off, he is just a 6-month old puppy,” Craig Bodiford said. “And he’s all puppy.”