PHOTO: Williamson Memorial Funeral Home Director Mandi Marlin with Mac, an emotional support dog, on Thursday, August 30, 2018./Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Inside the Williamson Memorial Funeral Home, a formal drawing room with armchairs and a fireplace is brightened immediately when six-month old dog Mac cruises in, heading over to a woman who just sat down.
He sniffed her, staring up at her face until she smiled, patting him on the head.
Mac, named both for the funeral home’s proximity to Mack Hatcher Parkway and funeral director Mandi Marlin’s great-great uncle Mac, is their recently acquired emotional support dog.
Marlin is a third-generation member of the Stephens family, who founded the cemetery in the 1960s and later built the funeral home.
Today, she and her mother Pam Stephens serve as funeral directors, while several members of the family serve various roles in the business.
“To me, it’s a ministry. Everybody needs us at some point,” Marlin said. “And it’s a form of counseling. It’s a very rewarding job.”
Getting and training Mac, Marlin said, is another way to continue to serve their customers.
Marlin submitted photos of Mac to a company which will create a custom coloring book of him for the children who come with their parents to the home. Mac also has an Instagram account, @macdoodle2289.
After hearing from a friend with a support dog at Smith Funeral & Cremation Service in Maryville, Marlin said Williamson Memorial decided to follow suit.
He has been working for three-and-a-half months, and no one has had a problem with him. During a recent visitation, “People just flocked to him,” Marlin said.
An English sheepdog-poodle mix, Marlin got Mac from Hurricane Creek Doodles, a breeder in Dickson.
He recently completed two months of obedience and emotional support training through Off Leash K9 Training.
But there is still much to learn: “He’s still a baby,” Marlin said.
Later, Mac runs into the foyer and jumps up onto a chair.
“Sit!” commands Marlin. Mac stared at her ruefully, instead plopping down, resting his head on his paws.