Submitted photo
Charlie is a seven-month-old Labradoodle who’s the new Chief Comfort Officer for the Hoff Family Funeral Homes. Charlie is a fully trained therapy dog who will make appearances at any of the branches where he’s requested but spends most of his time in Goodview. He has his own Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CharlieCuddles/
Submitted photo Charlie is a seven-month-old Labradoodle who’s the new Chief Comfort Officer for the Hoff Family Funeral Homes. Charlie is a fully trained therapy dog who will make appearances at any of the branches where he’s requested but spends most of his time in Goodview. He has his own Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CharlieCuddles/
The newest corporate officer at the Hoff Funeral Homes is, well...a little different. For starters, he prefers a simple red vest over the normal 3-piece suit. He goes by a single name. And he got the job even though he walks on all fours.

Meet Charlie, the seven-month old Labradoodle that’s now the Chief Comfort Officer for Hoff Funeral Homes. He’s been on the job for a short time and though he’s based in Hoff’’s Goodhue location, he’s been making friends all over southeast Minnesota.

“Charlie comes to work with me every day,” says Ashley Hoff-Czapleweski. “His job is to be here to comfort people during the tough times they’re going through.”

Charlie will often just sit with families who come into one of the funeral homes to make arrangements. He’ll also be around during funerals and visitations..

“We chose a Labradoodle because we wanted a hypoallergenic and non-shedding breed of dog,” Hoff-Czapleweski said. “In case people had allergies, we certainly didn’t want dog hair all over the place. They’re very outgoing dogs and typically a very smart breed.”

Intelligence is a requirement for therapy dogs. The Hoff family worked with a breeder that breeds Labradoodles to be therapy dogs. The trainer tests the dogs when they’re eight weeks old; their performance determines whether they’ll become therapy dogs, service dogs, or someone’s pet.

“A lot of their training, in the beginning, is just socialization,” Hoff-Czapleweski said. “It involves getting them around people in all types of situations, from little kids, to people in wheelchairs, to popping balloons. Basically, it’s anything they can do to teach the dogs not to easily be startled. From there, it’s on to obedience.”

It didn’t take long for the Hoff family to realize that they made a good choice for their Chief Comfort Officer. The entire family fell in love with Charlie during his first day at the office, and customers soon followed suit.

“How could you not fall in love with a cute little puppy?” Hoff-Czapleweski laughed. “We started a Facebook page for our new employee, and he got a lot of followers, with plenty of comments and reactions. That was where the immediate response came from and we realized this was the right thing to do.”

The Hoff’s had the idea to get a therapy dog 2 to 3 years ago, but about six months ago they began getting more serious.

“We actually had seen other funeral homes do something similar when we’d gone to industry conventions,” said Sue Hoff of the Rushford funeral home. “Everybody seems to like dogs so it seemed like a good time to give the idea a try.

Ashley said it’s only been a short time since Charlie got the job, but the response has been amazing.

“There was a family that came in to make arrangements shortly after we first got him,” she reminisced, “and it was as though Charlie knew just who needed him. He went and stood next to the gentleman, leaned against his legs, and just sat there and let the man pet him. You could see the stress temporarily melt away for that person. Obviously, he can’t fix everything they’re going through, but he can be a temporary distraction when they need it most.”

She said having Charlie there makes a huge difference for people who may not even realize it. In fact, the benefit the Hoff ‘s didn’t anticipate is that Charlie is good therapy for their own family and staff when they’ve had a tough day as well.

Charlie has been especially effective as a comforter for children. During a visitation, Charlie’s bed is placed in the foyer area and kids are often seen lying on the bed with Charlie, or doing homework next to him during the visitation. Sue Hoff says Charlie does a great job of putting people of all ages at ease.

“Kids, especially, find the whole process of coming to a funeral home much less intimidating when they can focus on Charlie,” she said.

Most of Charlie’s time will be spent at the Goodview location, but he does bounce around. When Charlie is scheduled to visit another office, the staff will make sure it gets up on their Facebook page.

“He’ll go to different locations, wherever he’s requested,” Sue Hoff added. “He did just spend a week with Gary and me in Rushford while Ashley was on vacation, so he was hanging out in Rushford with us.”