Have you ever wondered if dogs grieve? I believe they
do and therefore think it is important that we try and understand, as
best as humanly possible, what it is they are going through, in order to
help them cope with this dramatic change in their life.
Think about this: As people, we have friends and family who comfort and support us during our time of need. They help us through our loneliness by spending time visiting with us; they bring over food and help care for us; they invite us out so we are not left alone with just our thoughts, and so on. But what about our pets? When they lose a loved one, what support do they receive?
Although our dogs may not be able to talk to us and explain what is they are feeling, their behavior demonstrates they are truly grieving. Whether mourning the loss of an owner or even the loss of another dog, dogs grieve.
After a loss of a loved one, it's probably a good idea to allow a dog some time to mourn. But after a few days, you need to begin addressing the dog's emotional well-being before any of the behaviors listed above manifest into severe depression which could then lead to unwanted, bad behaviors or even affect the dog's health making him physically sick.
The type of loss (ie. who died), will determine the severity of the dog's bereavement and how to help the dog cope. In other words, is the loss over another companion dog? Or is it a family member? If it is a family member, is the dog able to stay in his current environment with the rest of his family? Or is the dog mourning the loss of his owner and will also have to be re-homed at this time?
Famous stories like that of Greyfriars Bobby,
the Skye Terrier who spent 14 years guarding his owner's grave, until
his own death, is a remarkable tale of loyalty and devotion to the very
end. Why would a dog stay vigil if he felt no sense of loss?
And then there's the story of Hachiko, the Akita who's daily routine included accompanying his owner Ueno, a professor at the University of Tokyo, to and from the train station. While at work one day, Ueno suffers a stroke and dies. When he did not return home, Hachiko continued to go to the station every day for the next nine years to wait for him. Why would he do this, if he wasn't longing for his owner?
When dogs grieve over the loss of a companion, they suffer with a type of separation anxiety. Some dogs may search room by room or wait by the door for their owner's return. But whatever the case, the dog will no doubt be aware of his companion's absence. And because dogs can pick up on our feelings, the dog will undoubtedly feel your sadness as well.
There is good news:
Dogs are highly adaptable and will adjust without their beloved companion in due time. They will make new bonds with those who are caring for them and meeting their current needs.
So continue loving and caring for the dog left in your care. Build new life experiences with him and in due time he will learn to live life to fullest once again.
Hawkeye, the faithful Labrador Retriever of fallen hero Jon Tumilson, remained by his owner's casket throughout his funeral service. Thirty-five year old Tumilson died in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011 when his helicopter was shot down during a mission to help fellow troops who had come under fire.
My final conclusion: Yes, dogs grieve.
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