Willy Thern, who was 81, passed away last Saturday after a long battle with cancer. He spent his last weeks at home, however, in order to be closer to his wife Gun and their beloved pet dog Milo.
“In our 56-year marriage we had, all told, eight dogs,” said the man’s wife, Gun Thern, to the local Helsingborg Dagbladet (HD) newspaper.
“Because we never had any children, they became our girls and boys”.
However, despite the couple’s close ties with their pets, Thern’s widow was denied permission by Välluv Church, in Helsingborg, southern Sweden, to bring Milo to her late husband’s burial service.
Gun explained that she only asked that the dog be allowed in for one hour, stating that authorities wouldn’t prohibit a guide dog from coming to a funeral and that Milo shouldn’t be a problem either.
However, despite Willy’s wishes to have the dog by his coffin, the priest, Markus von Martens, remained staunch on church policies, and refused to allow nine-year-old Milo into the building.
“This is primarily because we have people with allergies. If we allow dogs in the church then we’ll be forced to clean up afterwards. That’s a big project for a church from the 1100’s,” von Martens said to HD.
With a staff of over 20 people, the priest explained that it was his responsibly to make a choice that would suit everyone involved – including church visitors.
“I realize that animals are God’s creations, but burial rituals are meant for mourners. However, I could imagine that Gun could have a moment outside the church, before or after the burial, so that the dog can be with them,” the priest said.
Gun told the paper that Milo was the last of their dogs, and that all she wanted was for him to be able to come to the coffin with her for one final goodbye to Willy.