Adorable Basil the Beagle is the UK’s first ‘pawbearer’ and funeral therapy dog
Anyone with a dog will know they have an amazing ability to know when something is up, but for one clever Beagle it’s not just a clever quirk – it’s his job.
Beautiful Basil, who is 11, has a starring role as a ‘Comfort Companion’ at Clive Pugh Funeral Directors in Shrewsbury, sitting beside grieving families when they make funeral plans, accompanying mourners to the chapel of rest while they visit their loved ones and even attending funerals in churches and crematoriums.
His owner Rosalinda says he has a special sense of what is needed when people are suffering from the loss of a loved one and since he’s been working as a therapy dog for the last five years, has helped comfort hundreds of grieving families going through difficult times.
Rosalinda explains: “Human beings can, understandably, feel uncomfortable when dealing with grief and loss. Basil follows the lead of service dogs often used in health care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
“When families are arranging the funeral of their loved, their minds tend to be all over the place. Basil is very perceptive and seems to know that they need to be comforted and as such will sit beside them letting them pat him and stroke him. You can really feel the tension leaving the room.”
This kind of support is vital and families often remark on how helpful having Basil has been for them.
“He is a real ice-breaker. He greets people when they arrive and he automatically seems to put people at ease. It feels almost normal for them to be able to stroke a dog. If people come with young children, he helps distract them too so they can fuss him while their parents make arrangements,” says Rosalinda.
“We affectionately call Basil our ‘Comfort Companion.’ He provides families with unconditional love and support, as well as a subtle distraction from grief. When you have lost a loved one, sometimes it seems like nothing can make you feel better. That is, until you get a cuddle from a therapy dog. We hope that for those experiencing grief when they come to us, having Basil will put smiles on their faces, at least for a moment. It’s just something to lighten the load of that journey.”
Basil joined the family business in 2016, at the tender age of six. Clive and Rosalinda’s daughter had taken care of Basil since he was a puppy, but she was finding it difficult to give Basil the long walks he loves after having their first grandchild.
Clive and Rosalinda were happy to step in. Rosalinda wanted to give Basil a job and researched funeral therapy dogs online. And while they are more common in American than they are here, she knew that Basil had just the right temperament to work as a therapy dog here.
She says: “Beagles are most well known for their scenting ability, which has led to them being used as hunting dogs, but Basil has embraced his pastoral role. Basil loves meeting people in or out of the office. He is a very affectionate and loving Beagle. However, those who are not keen on dogs need not fear having Basil’s presence when making arrangements. We are keen to point out, families are always asked if they are happy to have Basil with them and if they would prefer not to, Basil will leave the room.
“There is scientific evidence to back up Basil’s beneficial effect. Many studies have found that the presence of a dog lowers human blood pressure and promotes the release of ‘feel good’ hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, prolactin and oxytocin.”
Basil will accompany mourners into the chapel of rest and will also attend funerals should the family wish. He regularly sits at the entrance so mourners can make a fuss of him and Rosalinda says he’s a wonderful tonic for people on a very sad day.
But, despite working hard to make life easier for the people he meets, Basil gets plenty of leisure time too.
She says: “He relishes long walks at Attingham Park or in the Shrewsbury Quarry, where he loves having a run around with other dogs. Each day starts with a brisk three-mile walk to ensure Basil remains in tiptop condition and able to bring comfort to as many people as possible. He is always well-groomed and smells lovely too.”
Over the years that Basil has been a part of the team at Clive Pugh Funeral Directors he has attracted his fair share of media attention, including a slot on ITV’s This Morning, but he takes it all in his stride.
His proud owner added: “Basil, the beagle, is living proof that dogs are givers of many special gifts, and they just know when we need them most.”