Ernie: A Funeral Home Therapy Dog’s Story of Love & Service

Ernie is the middle puppy – 1 week old.

Dale and Jodi Clock adopted Ernie in July of 2007.  They had been looking for a second therapy dog for their funeral home, as Max, their then therapy dog, was both getting older and being requested to be present at our other locations. It was their hope that Max would have been able to act as a mentor to Ernie and assist with showing him the ropes.

Ernie’s early years

The week before Ernie was scheduled to come to his “furr-ever” home, Max died as a result to kidney failure. Ernie had big paws to fill! Not only did he fill them – he solidly blazed his own trail. There was no doubt he barked and wagged his tail to his own beat.

Ernie Clock as a puppy, poses on an employee’s Harley Davidson.

From that day Ernie became part of both the Clock’s personal family, and the Clock Funeral Home family. At the age of 12 weeks, he rarely missed a day going to work. He had several beds, toys and water bowls under employee’s desks or in their offices. His first job was to explore the facility and learn the footprint the 40,000 square foot building. Each day he would look not only to his parents (Dale & Jodi), but to the Clock employees for assistance in potty training, and finding his way back to the front office. He learned to work the system for treats!

It wasn’t long until Ernie figured out that the mailmen, UPS drivers,

Born to be wild! Four years later posing on the same Harley.

and Fed Ex team also brought tasty treats too! Regardless of what was taking place, he knew the sound of their vehicles and would race to greet them at the door. Then he’d escort them to the office and follow them to the restroom. Patiently and sometimes drooling Ernie waited at the door until they appeared again. After a pat on the head, he walked along side them to the front door. It didn’t take long for him to realize that when he did this, he received a two treats, rather than just the one when they came in. This was learning lesson number two.

Ernie was a slower at learning the certification requirements for becoming a therapy dog. In the initial phases of training, he was easily distracted. He was more interested in exploring and playing, then learning the required behaviors to receive the designation. Ernie was in training for a couple of years before he actually passed the exam.

Ernie – teaching school children the right way to pet dogs.

Prior to his certification, Ernie remained active in helping heal families within the funeral home and community. He would visit the local schools to teach them what working dogs do. One of the most powerful lessons taught, was to acclimate students how to meet and greet an unknown pet. This was critical learning for the students to avoid a biting situation.

Community Service Activities

Not only was Ernie a familiar face in the community, he was a familiar face with local hospices. He had a few fans that requested him on a regular basis for a visit during their final days. Outside of making visits to the hospice house, he was also on call for in-home patient visits. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for Ernie to provide tail wags and kisses for the patient, and their family members in the comfort of their own home. Sometimes Ernie and the family would simply play. This enabled the family to laugh and smile during a tumultuous time.

Ernie and Jodi leading the walk on the “ruff ruff” route.

He also become the face for Clock Timeless Pet’s partnership with The Scholnik Healing Center’s annual community fundraiser called “People, Pooches & Picnics.” This event raised money for hospice via an organized community walk for people and their leashed pets. The walk always ended with a picnic at the Scholnik Healing Center. The annual walk had become so successful, that a by-product was a new program called the “Furr-Ever” re-homing.  The premise of this was to raise money for animals who parent is in hospice and need to be re-homed, rather than go to a kill shelter.

Ernie was most attached to his dad Dale. It wasn’t uncommon for Ernie to be at Dale’s side during a family’s arrangement conference. He would also present at the visitation and attend the funeral. In fact, there were times that Ernie would join Dale walking up the aisle to dismiss families when a funeral had ended. It was the rarest occasion when Ernie wasn’t present at an arrangement conference or a visitation.

Ernie did however have one big fear – loud noises or gunshots. This fear was not a result of thunderstorms, he connected it with our Veteran clients who received military rights at the end of the funeral service. Somehow, Ernie knew that when people came into the facility dressed in a military uniform, the gunshots would follow. The minute he saw any military volunteers enter the building, he high tailed it to the farthest end of the building and hid. He would only come back to the front after the twenty one gun salute was over and “Taps” was played. This was quite disappointing to the military volunteers as they loved Ernie. They would always bring treats or a toy for him to let him know that they were good guys who were just honoring a fallen comrade.

Ernie loved making doggie snow angels!

Not just a working dog

When Ernie wasn’t working, he was home. There he was just one of the herd. He knew the difference between being at home and working. At home, his favorite pastimes included long walks, terrorizing the cats, doing doggy snow angels and barking at the sliding glass door. He also loved to go for car rides, especially to the family cottage. He had the ride timed out and knew exactly when the car was transitioning from the highway to the entrance ramp. When this occurred he would always jump up, insist that the window go down and he took in the smells of Lake Michigan. He knew that when he was at the cottage, the walks were longer and more frequent. (Not to mention he knew selecting a treat from the local pet bakery downtown.)

In the prime of his life, he was stricken with lymphoma. The timeline from discovering the onset of an illness, receiving a diagnosis, and his death was less than ten days. During that time Ernie only acted ill one day. That was the day he died. Ernie, to his core was a true therapy and comfort dog. In his final few moments while taking his last few breaths, he was licking his mom’s tears away as if to say, “It’s okay – I’ll be waiting for you and dad to join me at the Rainbow Bridge.”

A memorial service was held to honor “Ernie Clock,” Clock Funeral Home’s Therapy Dog, on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.at Clock Funeral Home’s Muskegon Chapel on Peck Street in Muskegon. This service was open to the community. Almost a hundred people and their leashed pets came to honor Ernie’s life.  In retrospect, Ernie’s life brought comfort, tail wags and doggie kisses to over 2,200 families who Clock’s had the honor of serving. His legacy will live on, through the stories that will be told by those he helped make a bad day, just a litter better.

Ernie left behind his parents Dale and Jodi, his sisters Kellie, brother Brett and his wife Kelly, Nephew Gavin  and four legged siblings Lucy (a neurotic Pomeranian), Dutchess (a blind deaf sheltie), Tinkie, Yama and Stevie (all Siamese) cats.

Ernie Clock’s Community Memorial Service

 

 

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