By Jeff Wagner

COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — A visit to Gearhart Funeral Home in Coon Rapids often carries with it an emotional toll.

But even on the coldest days, there’s one employee just waiting to warm your heart.

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“She loves being around people and she looks forward to going to work in the morning,” Ryan Scharfencamp, the home’s funeral director said.

Scharfencamp is the funeral director, but the employee of the month for the forseeable future is Jackie.

“Most people aren’t expecting to see a dog, so it’s like, oh, it makes them feel at home,” Scharfencamp said.

Naturally calm but also packed with energy, the 1-year-old lab mix is a therapy dog trained to comfort grieving families.

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“Her trainer even mentioned that she’s a natural for it,” Scharfencamp said.

Whether people are arranging services or in the midst of a visitation, Jackie, a rescue, seems to know when her soft presence is needed.

“It’s just one of those things you have to see,” Scharfencamp said. “She’ll see someone and just go up to them and put her head on their lap or just lay down in front of them.”

Sharfencamp believes Jackie is the first funeral home therapy dog in the Twin Cities, and based on the friendly pup’s reception so far, a coworker could be in her future.

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“I anticipate the way it’s going, and continuing to go, that down the road, we will add additional dogs. That’s my hope,” Scharfencamp said.

Jeff Wagner