Secure Haven’s new bereavement officer

A funeral home’s newest recruit is happy in his work…providing he’s given plenty of attention and treats.

Otis the cocker spaniel is the latest bereavement support officer to join the team at Secure Haven Funeral Directors, in Chelmsford, Essex.

And the pooch is earning his wages by helping grieving families to deal with the pain and suffering of losing someone they love.

The medical profession recognizes the benefits petting animals brings to those who are suffering illness or grief, with comfort and reassurance among the positives of having pets around.

So, Paul and Cheryl Yarwood decided their own pet Otis would be a great benefit to grieving families using their unique funeral home in the Essex countryside.

The three-year-old pet is now a full-time member of the team at Secure Haven, on hand and willing to accept as much attention as clients feel they want or need to give.

Paul, who set up the funeral home with his wife after being saddened at the insensitive handling of his own mother’s death by traditional funeral directors, said: “Otis is a great help to us.”

“Making funeral arrangements can be a great strain on families who are often shocked and emotional. It can feel intense for them to sit and make final arrangements for someone they have lost. So, to have Otis as somewhat of a distraction can be a real comfort and support.

“He’s a trained dog and so if his attention isn’t wanted, that’s also fine. He isn’t going to make a nuisance of himself to those who would rather not fuss him.”

Otis has already provided comfort to families, not only as they make funeral arrangements, but during services at Secure Haven.

Dog lover Linda Humphrey found Otis a great support as she planned her father Ted Smith’s funeral recently.

She said: “A dog is very comforting in times of grief. Animals can really sense your sadness.

“Otis is a lovely friendly dog and has such a beautiful expression on his face that takes your mind off what you are talking about. My sister isn’t a

“We held dad’s service and wake at Secure Haven and we decided we would like Otis mingling during the wake. He provided great comforted to everyone on the day.”

The dog is not the only home comfort offered to families at Secure Haven. The undertakers are based in a barn in the Essex countryside which offers a home from home environment, with a comfortable “lounge” for arranging and viewing.

Unique in the industry, the company also offers secure storage of ashes in lockable individual oak niches – a UK first – and sources rare memorial products from around the world.