A growing number of funeral homes are keeping dogs on the premises and using them to comfort mourners.

Funeral directors say the dogs, usually trained therapy animals, can lighten the often awkward, tense atmosphere at a wake or funeral service. They say the animals sometimes seem to know exactly who needs their help.

A woman in White Plains, New York, says having a dog at her father's memorial service helped transform it from a sad duty to more of a celebration. That dog has her own business cards and sends thank-you notes to children she's befriended.

A funeral director in Milwaukee says his dog probably touched thousands of families over 10 years.

An industry spokeswoman says the use of dogs is increasing. The dogs' services are often offered at no extra charge.