Monday, November 8, 2010

Dogs and Death

My Auntie sent me the clip below from Dr Michael Fox's newspaper column. Once I wiped the tears away, I realized it needed to be shared. Too many of us (me too, at one time) don't think about whether dogs miss the friends THEY lose along life's journey.

I didn't start thinking about how dogs react to loss until Ben and I lost little George. They didn't get along in life - my bad - and I never thought young Ben would miss little, old crotchety George when she died. It wasn't until I saw Ben crying as if his heart would break when by chance we saw a dog who looked a bit like George that I I started asking questions. My friend and dog walker said, "Ben cries like that every time we see a little gray dog when we're walking." The vet and behaviorist I consulted weren't surprised - they both said that many dogs feel loss as much as we do, and we need to be more aware, more responsible and more comforting.

When I saw the article my Aunt sent me, I remembered Ben and George, and started thinking about all the dogs who are separated from human, canine, feline or other "friends", with no goodbyes, no explanations, and no understanding when the sad, confused and perhaps frightened dog goes off the rails:

- When a dog "couple" is separated due to death or the breakup of a human relationship.

- When dogs enter a "shelter" as a "couple" or become "friends", but aren't adopted together.

- When a dog is next to a compatible dog in a "shelter", and his neighbor is euthanized. (Do dogs suffer the canine-equivalent of "survivor's guilt"?)

- When puppy mill mothers and puppies are separated without due care to proper weening.

- When dogs in laboratories watch the dog in the next cage disappear for the "final" experiment.

- And of course, when a beloved human dies, and the dog doesn't realize their master or mistress isn't coming back.

Here's the article - apologies for the quality, but I couldn't find it on-line:

I did find one very interesting article on Dogster, discussing Dr. Fox's article, as well as the subject of dogs and grief: When a Dog Loses a Loved One: An Interview with Dr. Michael W. Fox.

The next time you suffer the loss of a loved one, take a moment to consider how it effects your dog. If you're ending a relationship, think about how your dog will be effected. If you're adopting a dog who has a long-term relationship with a fur-friend, seriously consider keeping the partnership together.

And everyday, remember that critters have feelings too...

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