Are Animals Capable of Grief?

When animals lose a member of their species, they often show behaviors that look like human grief. Does this mean they are mourning the dead?

By Leslie Nemo

In August of 2018, millions of people watched a video of an Orca in the Pacific Northwest and felt their hearts break. The new mother named Tahlequah had lost her calf, but persisted in pushing the corpse around for 17 days. It was almost impossible not to feel, deep down, that the mom was grieving.

Scientists are tempted to draw those conclusions, too. But even if researchers feel that an animal’s behaviors mean it is mourning, that’s not how their job works. “We need documented evidence that this is indeed an analogue to grief,” says Elizabeth Lonsdorf, a primatologist at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, that proof is hard to get. “In terms of emotion, animal cognition is tricky,” she says. “It would be a lot nicer if you could ask them what they’re feeling.”

Since that option is off the table, scientists resort to observations, analysis and testing hypotheses to figure out why animals interact with their dead, and whether those interactions count as grief. And it’s going to take a lot more than just observations in the wild to get an answer. “The short answer is this is one of these great scientific problems that will take people working from all areas to sort out,” Lonsdorf says.

Rare Sightings

To begin with, it’s important to understand how rarely researchers see animals interact with the dead. Even if observations make headlines, those are single incidents. Scientists need a large dataset of interactions to reach any conclusions about why animals do what they do.

For many animals with documented behaviors toward deceased individuals, the field notebooks don’t have many entries. When Lonsdorf and her colleagues analyzed incidents of chimpanzee mothers carrying infant corpses for a study published in July, there were 33 total cases to work with — and that was after 60 years of research in the same chimp communities in Tanzania. Data is scarce for cetaceans, too. Between 1970 and 2016, there were only 78 recorded incidents of different dolphins and whales showing interest in a dead individual. 

Observing these interactions in the wild is somewhat serendipitous. Unlike other animal behaviors, it’s not possible for researchers to head out into the field intent on observing interactions with the dead. “You can’t go out and wait for animals to die,” Lonsdorf says.

There’s also a chance that the incidents that do end up in studies are only the ones that intrigue us humans the most. As behavioral ecologist Shifra Goldenberg and her colleagues point out in their 2019 analysis of elephant behaviors, “There is probably a bias within this body of anecdotes that favors the recording of interesting or more obvious behaviors.” Even when compiling all recorded instances, finding a pattern of behavior can be hard if not all research groups know or document the exact same details every time. These details might include how long the interactions were, who showed up, or the exact nature of the relationships between the living and deceased.

Using Context Clues

Researchers can still take a close look at the ways in which different animals interact with the dead to try and suss out their motivations. For example, some scientists have proposed that maybe a given species nudges, touches or carries a corpse because they don’t yet know their child or friend is, well, dead. When it comes to cetaceans, like dolphins and whales, many biologists think that within a few days of interaction, the living individual would have figured it out. After all, their motionless companion starts to reek of decay. But there’s still no concrete evidence that the aquatic mammals are aware that the individual won’t be revived. “Though research into this realm started over fifty years ago,” wrote zoologist Giovanni Bearzi and his colleagues in their 2018 analysis of these cases, “there has been little direct research on this topic and the matter is still open to investigation and debate.”

With chimpanzees, it’s a different story. In their study, Lonsdorf and her team analyzed the same possibility — that mothers didn’t realize their child had died — but found evidence to suggest otherwise. The moms sometimes dragged the infants, something they’d never do while their child was alive. In some cases, they cannibalized their young, a pretty clear indicator that they knew something had changed. Other theories about why these mothers interacted with their deceased kids didn’t fit the evidence, either. One idea was that mothers are so overwhelmed with the postpartum hormones influencing their maternal instincts that they can’t bring themselves to let go of their child. If that was the case, then the research team would have seen mothers who lost older kids let go faster, as they’d be well past the wave of hormonal attachment. But there wasn’t any relationship between infant age and how long the mother carried the body around.

When their analysis was done, Lonsdorf and her colleagues were left with the impression that chimp mothers know their child has died, but still can’t let go — even grooming their baby as if it were still alive. But that doesn’t mean the team concluded that these primates were feeling grief. “Our conclusion was, ‘Okay, at least for chimps, the simple solutions don’t work.’ We need to think more creatively.”

Understanding Grief

To better understand why chimps — or elephants or cetaceans or any number of animals — interact with their dead, more nuanced research needs to happen. When it comes to chimpanzees, maybe experiments with captive individuals could show how they react to, say, photos of deceased friends. After a death, primatologists could look for changes that mirror some common human grief behaviors, like withdrawing from others or losing interest in food, Lonsdorf says. For cetaceans, Bearzi and his colleagues think that it might be worth trying to record the sounds the marine mammals make after a death, as many species are famous for intricate echolocations.

A better understanding of animal behavior could use some introspection, too. Grief is a vague, variant concept and process for humans, and even death itself comes with a learning curve. Lonsdorf, for example, remembers watching Star Wars as a kid and believing the actor who played Obi-Wan Kenobi actually died on screen. “I was shocked when he showed up in another movie,” she says. Death and grief can still seem strange and unfamiliar to us. Naturally, a more nuanced understanding of those concepts in people might help us recognize them in other creatures, too.

Complete Article HERE!

5 Ways To Make Your Dog’s Last Days Their Best Days – DogTime

By Maggie Clancy

Grieving over the loss of a pet is traumatic. But sometimes, it can be even harder when we know that our dogs don’t have much time left. Anticipatory grief is real, and it’s a completely normal emotion to feel.

Dogs are very intuitive, and your grief may be contagious to your ailing pet. Perhaps instead of spending your remaining time with your canine companion in a state of grieving and sadness, you can make the rest of your dog’s life as comfortable and wonderful as possible.

Here are some tips on how to make your dog’s last days the best that they possibly can be.

Create A Bucket List

Dog parent Riina Cooke made the decision to make a bucket list for her terminally ill Boxer, and it helped her with the grieving process tremendously. From a cheeseburger to a pedicure, she filled her dog’s remaining time with fun and happiness.

What makes your dog ecstatic? Is it taking luxurious car rides? Hanging out with some of their favorite friends?

Create a list of what your dog loves to do best, and cross off as many as you can as long as your dog’s health and safety permits.

There’s nothing better than seeing your pup at their happiest, and there’s no better way to remember them than in that state, as well.

Go All Out With The Food

If your dog’s vet agrees that certain people foods are okay for your dog to ingest, give your pup the tastiest, most decadent food possible.

When my childhood dog, a nine-year-old Cocker Spaniel, was suffering from a myriad of ailments, we gave her steamed rice and steak every night for dinner. Some nights, her dinner was fancier than what the humans of the household were eating.

Ask your vet which foods are appropriate, and start making Fido gourmet meals.

Indulge In All Forms Of Pampering

Go buck wild with any and all forms of pampering, especially anything that will relax and soothe your dog.

Have a dog masseuse come to your house. Go to a dog bakery and get them the most outrageous dog cake you can find.

You can even go a little less traditional route and do things like take your dog to a pet communicator or psychic to hear what they’re really feeling. You may not be a believer, but it will probably be a fun experience and a fond memory.

Get Educated On Pain Management

This may not be the most fun part of the list, but it’s crucial. If your dog is suffering, it may not always be apparent that he or she is in pain. Educate yourself on the signs of pain in dogs.

If your dog hits a point of extreme pain or a point where you cannot take care of your pup yourself, it may be time to consider dog hospice care. Much like human hospice care, dog hospice care is from the comfort of your own home.

You can work with your vet on things like administering medications and deciding if and when it’s the right time for euthanasia.

Allow Your Friends And Family To Help You

In order for you to be in the right state of mind for when your dog is nearing the end of their life, you should have a solid support group. Talk to friends who know your dog well, family, and a veterinarian you can trust.

Many animal hospitals also offer support groups. By having this ring of support for yourself, you will be able to effectively and lovingly support your pooch through this painful time.

Letting go of a dog is never easy, but you can make it as positive of an experience as possible for both you and your dog.

If you’ve gone through the grieving process of a dog passing away, what did you do to make your dog’s last days their best? Do any fond memories bring you comfort? Let us know in the comments below!

Complete Article HERE!

Emotionally preparing for the death of a pet

The reality of having a pet is that we will outlive most of them.

By Kellie Scott

The grief when an animal dies can feel like losing a friend or family member to many of us, explains Annie Cantwell-Bartl, a psychologist specialising in grief.

“For some people it can be absolutely profound.”

Veterinarian Anne Fawcett, who has a special interest in end-of-life decision-making, says often the anticipatory grief can be worse than the experience of when the animal dies.

When you have some warning that your pet is nearing the end of their life — for example, when your pet is old or terminally ill — there are some things you can do to emotionally prepare for their death that can make the pain more manageable.

Our love for pets and disenfranchised grief

My mum Joanne Scott is a big animal lover and has given a home to many rescues over the years.

She’s had to say goodbye to dozens of pets including horses, dogs, cats, cows, guinea pigs and chickens — most of which were my family too.

A loss that stands out the most for her is horse Razie, who she had for 22 years.

“I was just so close to him. He was like my right arm.

“He understood me, I understood him. I just loved him dearly and he was a pony that was very loving.”

She had to judge the right time to euthanase Razie when his cancer was causing him too much pain.

“You feel like you’ve lost a friend.”

Dr Cantwell-Bartl says often the grief is not recognised as valid by the person themselves or others around them which can make it harder to work through. This is known as disenfranchised grief.

“There’s not those same social supports and rituals like when a person dies.

“People can feel embarrassed and guilty that they are so distraught.”

Dr Fawcett says she’s lucky to be surrounded by people who “get” the human-animal bond.

“As a companion animal veterinarian, I see people who are very bonded to their animals.

“There are often mutual tales of rescue — a stray cat who kept a person going when their spouse died of cancer; a dog that someone rescued from a pound who gave them a reason to get out of bed during a period of mental illness.”

She says while there is still room to improve, society is getting better at understanding pet grief. For example, she has clients whose bosses have granted them bereavement leave.

Ways to emotionally prepare for their death

Spend time together

Making the most of the time you have left with your pet can start the grieving process in a way you have control over, says Dr Cantwell-Bartl.

“You can spend time with them, stroke them, delight with them, and feel the sadness.”

Find a vet you are comfortable with and talk to them

Finding a vet you feel is understanding and supportive is important. There are vets who specialise in palliative care and can offer options like euthanasing at home.

Dr Fawcett says to talk openly about your concerns and the pet’s quality of life.

If you are considering euthanasia, make plans with them.

“Where will it happen? Who would you like to be present? What are the options regarding the animal’s remains; for example, burial, private cremation? If cremated, what sort of vessel do you want to keep the remains in? What are the costs you need to expect?” are some questions to consider, Dr Fawcett says.

If you do proceed with euthanasia, know it is normal to question if you did the right thing.

“That doesn’t mean it was the wrong thing,” Dr Fawcett says.

Joanne says she still struggles with some of her decisions.

“One horse I put down still haunts me. Even though everyone says you did the right thing, I still think sometimes, ‘Did I do all I possibly could?'”

Talk to people who understand

Seek out people who get what you are going through, Dr Cantwell-Bartl says.

“Find those people who can put their arms around you and walk by your side.

If you are struggling to find the support you need, consider professional counselling.

Make them comfortable and do your best

Joanne says knowing you’re doing your best by your pet can help you can have some closure.

“Making them as comfortable as possible in the time they have left shows that you love them.

“Then you know you’ve done all you could.”

Dr Fawcett agrees and says doing our best by our animals includes not prolonging suffering.

“That can mean letting them go when it is in their interests.”

Know that it’s OK to grieve

Dr Cantwell-Bartl says feeling like you should “just get on with things” can shut down your grief.

Give yourself permission to feel the hard emotions and go through the processes of grieving.

Words of comfort

Knowing she has given an animal the best life possible is what helps Joanne prepare to say goodbye.

“That is a wonderful thing because there are too many animals that don’t have a good life.

“I always look back and think about some of the kittens we only had for nine months, and a fantastic nine months is better than a shitty five years.”

Dr Fawcett says it’s important to be kind to yourself, no matter how you are feeling.

“For people who experience profound anticipatory grief, the death of an animal can be a relief.

“These owners can feel guilty for not grieving as much as they feel they should. I think the key is to be kind to yourself.”

She says the grief of losing her own animals has left a pain in her chest, but she has some peace knowing she gave them a good life.

“As one of my clients said to me, grief is the tax you pay for love — but it’s a tax worth paying.”

Complete Article HERE!

Do Animals Truly Grieve When Other Animals Die?

By Denyse O’Leary
Anthropologist Barbara J. King, author of How Animals Grieve (2014), has written a thought-provoking essay on the difficulties that COVID-19 has created for people coping with the death of a loved one because they are not allowed conventional grieving methods. Although it is titled “Animal Grief Shows We Aren’t Meant to Die Alone,” King’s essay turns out to be appropriately skeptical of ambitious claims about animal grief. She writes,

There is a popular perception that some animals, particularly elephants and crows, participate in their own kinds of funerals. But there’s little solid evidence—at least, so far—for this kind of community ritual. Elephants may occasionally cover a dead companion’s body with leaves or branches, but the meaning and intent of this action remains unclear. A 2012 paper includes the words “scrub-jay funerals” in the title, but the “funerals” were actually noisy gatherings of birds around scrub-jay skins and feathers laid out by researchers in an experiment. The birds’ response to what they saw indicates acute social assessment of their surroundings, to be sure, but it’s a stretch to consider that behavior a death ritual.

Barbara J. King, “Animal Grief Shows We Aren’t Meant to Die Alone” at Sapiens (April 22, 2020)

That said, she cites a number of instances of animals showing apparent grief at the death of a companion:

At the Farm Sanctuary in New York state, after years of close companionship, a duck named Harper withdrew socially and refused to form new bonds after the death of his duck friend Kohl in 2010.

Barbara J. King, “Animal Grief Shows We Aren’t Meant to Die Alone” at Sapiens (April 22, 2020)

But wait; it’s hard for a human to be sure what’s happening here. Harper may simply have lost the ability to form close bonds with other ducks, irrespective of what, if anything, he understands about Kohl’s absence. Again, while much is made of primates grieving over dead companions,

Monkeys and apes don’t act exactly as humans do around dead bodies. Mixed in with compassionate caretaking may be aggressive or even sexual behaviors: They might strike or mount a corpse. Yet human grief, too, can manifest in unusual ways. At a solemn memorial service, a mourner may suddenly laugh in involuntary response to tension.

Barbara J. King, “Animal Grief Shows We Aren’t Meant to Die Alone” at Sapiens (April 22, 2020)

Well, we are beginning to get a clue now. A human being may behave oddly at a funeral but that is because of an awareness of what death means. The monkey is troubled by death but does the monkey understand what death is? Anthropologists like King resist making that distinction:

For much of the 20th century, it was common practice for ethologists to resist acknowledging the profound emotions expressed by these animals. Anthropologists and zoologists who broke with tradition to describe animal grief—and other emotions as well, including joy—found themselves accused of anthropomorphism, the projecting of human capacities onto other species. The tide began to turn, however, as ever-more research in the field and in captivity showed unmistakable evidence of animals feeling deeply what happens to them. More than ever before, researchers now recognize that grief and love don’t belong only to us humans.

Barbara J. King, “Animal Grief Shows We Aren’t Meant to Die Alone” at Sapiens (April 22, 2020)

No, love and grief don’t belong only to us humans. But there is something that does. Consider the story of Hachikō, the Akita dog (right, in 1934) whose human friend, a professor named Hidesaburō Ueno, died of a cerebral hemorrhage while on a train trip in Japan in 1925 and never returned to the station from which Hachikō had seen him go:

Hachiko moved in with a former gardener of the Ueno family. But throughout the rest of his ten-year-long life, he kept going to the Shibuya Train Station every morning and afternoon precisely when the train was due to enter the station. He sat there for hours, patiently waiting in vain for the return of his beloved owner which sadly never came back.

Maria Wulff Hauglann, “The Amazing And True Story Of Hachiko The Dog” at Nerd Nomads

Hachikō has inspired much devotion ever since, along with several films and monuments.

The touching part of the story is not simply Hachikō’s devotion but the fact that the dog could not know that his beloved Hidesaburō had died.

Death, after all, is an abstraction. We can be told that someone has died and, without seeing the person’s body, we know what that means. We also know that all human beings (and all animals) will die sometime. But that is an abstraction too. For humans, mourning is a philosophical as well as an emotional affair. As a result, death raises questions about the meaning of life which Harper, the monkeys, and Hachiko could never ask.

It is these thoughts and questions, not only grief, that have always underlain funerals:

What’s undeniable is that our early Homo sapiens ancestors began to create increasingly elaborate burial rituals. At around 24,000 years ago in what is today Sunghir, Russia, for example, a boy of about 12 years of Animals ranging from elephants to cows, ducks to dogs, may grieve.age and a girl of about 9 were buried together. The research paper describing the remains says they were “head to head, covered by red ocher, and ornamented with extraordinarily rich grave goods.”

Barbara J. King, “Animal Grief Shows We Aren’t Meant to Die Alone” at Sapiens (April 22, 2020)

But then those human beings knew what it meant in the abstract to say that the children had died. The grave goods they provided suggest that the mourners thought the children might need something somewhere. But they surely understand that somewhere to be another dimension of reality. That’s part of what the animal doesn’t have.

So do animals grieve? Yes indeed. Do they grieve the same way humans do? No, because, for better or worse, they can’t. There is no turning back from the gift of reason.

Complete Article HERE!

4 Lessons You’ll Learn If You’re Grieving The Loss Of A Pet

The pain is unimaginable.

By Catie Kovelman

I recently lost my childhood horse, Amanda. To say that I feel devastated would be an understatement.

I’ve spent more than a decade loving and learning from this horse, and it seems impossible to imagine life without her. But no matter how much I miss Amanda, I can’t stop life from moving forward, and I can’t bring her back.

I can still learn from her, though, so here are four things that losing Amanda taught me about grieving a pet.

1. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve your pet.

First and foremost, please remember that there is no correct way to mourn your pet. Grief affects everyone differently, so we all react differently to losing our favorite animals.

Mourning also doesn’t come with a time limit. I’ve known friends who seemed to be fine the day after they lost their pets, but I still feel sad about losing my horse weeks later.

No matter how long I feel down, my feelings are valid. If you’re mourning a pet, there’s no shame in taking as much time as you need to heal.

2. Don’t feel ashamed that you’re grieving an animal.

Since Amanda passed away, I’ve felt a bit awkward telling people that I’m grieving a horse, not a person.

Sometimes, I feel like people judge my inability to stop crying over an animal, even though studies show that we feel the loss of our animals more intensely than we feel the loss of human friends or family.

However, Amanda was so much more than a horse to me; she was a friend. My grief is valid, so I shouldn’t feel embarrassed. And if you’re grieving a pet, yours is, too.

3. Find creative ways to remember your pet.

Right now, I take comfort in finding ways to memorialize Amanda and keep her memory close.

For example, I wear a locket with her photo in it, so that she’s always with me. I’ve even donated to multiple charities in Amanda’s name to honor her and spread positivity in the wake of her death.

If you’re grieving a pet, you can also create a photo memorial in your home or use an old feeding bowl as a planter to cultivate new life.

4. Talking through your grief can help you heal.

Amanda was an extremely special horse with an amazing story, and I love to tell the world about her. I genuinely want people to know how incredible she was, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep her legacy alive.

I often fear that people will forget about her, but I refuse to let that happen. Some people are hesitant to talk about Amanda with me, because they don’t want to upset me, but I love reminiscing on positive memories of my horse.

Since her death, I’ve laughed as I share happy Amanda stories and reminisce on her quirks. It’s also felt therapeutic to talk through the immense pain I’ve felt since losing my horse, because I can’t bottle up my emotions for long.

Although losing a pet is the hardest part of owning one, I take solace in knowing that my horse lived a truly incredible life and I’m grateful to have gotten the chance to love her.

If you’re grieving the loss of a pet, remember that no one can tell you the “right” way to grieve. It’s your journey, so mourn your pet in whatever ways feel right for you.

Complete Article HERE!

Grieving the Death of a Pet

Emotions are very real as pet owners come to terms with a difficult loss

By Chris Haws

At the pet loss support groups I conduct at the VCA Southpaws Veterinary Center in Fairfax, Va., I often hear from attendees that they encounter sentiments like this as they grieve a beloved animal companion: “He was only a dog, it’s not as if a real person died.” “You knew the day would come, cats don’t live forever.” “You can always get another pet — move on.”

Generally, such insensitive and unhelpful statements are made by people who have not known the unique, enriching and profound nature of the relationship we have with our pets.

They just don’t get it,” said Jennifer, the grieving owner of a Miniature Schnauzer.

And that’s their misfortune,” added Alice, her neighbor at the table and a former cat owner.

The Burden of Disenfranchised Grief

They were both right, and in more ways than you might at first imagine.

Numerous studies have shown that people enjoy a wide range of positive emotional benefits from their pets; the Comfort from Companion Animals Scale (CCAS) lists over a dozen, including companionship, pleasure, play, laughter, constancy, something to love, comfort, feeling loved, responsibility, feeling needed, trust, safety and exercise. Pet owners also tend to live longer than non-pet owners and report fewer visits to physicians, psychiatrists and therapists.

So why the disconnect when a person is grieving over the loss of a pet? Part of the answer lies in the fact that society at large doesn’t always cope very well with certain types of grief.  People aren’t sure what to say or how to behave. Death is never a comfortable topic, but when that death involves “socially delicate” circumstances such as suicide, drug overdose or any other loss that cannot be easily acknowledged, or publicly mourned, it can provoke what is described as “disenfranchised grief”.

And that’s what can occur when someone loses a pet.

Lizzy, the owner of Petra (a recently euthanized 13-year-old Boxer/Bloodhound mix), is a busy wife and mother who works full-time. Of her family, and her grief, she remarked: “They don’t want me to cry in front of them, and no one will talk about my pain.”

It’s a sentiment that is frequently expressed: “I can’t stop crying. My husband gets angry with me. I know he’s sad too, but he just won’t show it,” noted Alice, grieving the loss of the couple’s treasured cat.

And, of course, the additional, unwelcome experience of disenfranchisement only makes an already sad situation worse, as Jennifer observed: Everybody has moved on like it was just yesterday’s news. I’m not expecting everybody to feel as I do, but to be so utterly deserted has been tough. I was literally told that I would just have to get over it. Just take twelve and a half years and move on … sure, I’ll get right on that.”

A Painful Loss After a Pet Is Gone

The point is that pet loss generates a degree of grief that can be every bit as acute as human loss. Some go even further. “These have been the worst days of my life. For me, this is worse than losing people,” wrote Karen, a grieving Pomeranian owner.

She is not alone. Many of the attendees at my pet loss support group sessions have expressed the same view. Grief from pet loss hurts. A lot.

Grief from pet loss is also an equal opportunity emotion. Our session attendees have included high ranking military officers, diplomats, corporate executives and professional artists. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. There are a lot of us pet owners around.

Sixty-seven percent of all U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Some 73 % of those families own one or more dogs (89.7 million) and 49% own one or more cats (94.2 million).

And the sad — and significant — fact is that no pet lives forever. The mean age of death for dogs of all breeds is just over 11 years; curiously, the larger breeds die much younger than the small breeds, and scientists aren’t quite sure why. For house cats, the mean age at death is just over 15 years.

Pet ownership is almost certain to lead to loss, at some point in time. Most of us understand that reality, although we don’t like to dwell too much on it.

The relatively short lifespan of a pet also brings its own unique challenge. The relationship that we have with our animal companions is beyond special — a two-way dependency that is based on an unspoken agreement that we will care for each other with no questions asked. But at the end of a pet’s life, that understanding can be tested in a way that has yet to present itself in the realm of human mortality: euthanasia.

A large animal hospital such as VCA South Paws “puts down” over 20 animals a week, but only after extensive veterinary medical review and never without the full agreement and participation of the owner. Nevertheless, many of the attendees at the pet loss support sessions are still wracked with guilt about the decision they made to end their companion’s life. Might he have recovered? What else could have been done for her? Had they been too hasty?

If it’s any consolation, in every case I’ve encountered, not only had the time truly come to end the animal’s pain or suffering, but in many cases the creature seemed ready and willing to stop battling on as well.

“He was ready to go,” observed Sue, the owner of a Chocolate Labrador. She was suffering and I needed to help my best friend,” remembers Lizzy, the Boxer/Bloodhound owner.There was nothing more anyone could do agreed John, the heartbroken owner of a fourteen-year-old Yorkie.

Grieving in a Safe Space

That unfamiliar blend of resignation, relief and heartache is a difficult one to process and it takes a while for people to reconcile all those internal conflicts. That’s where grief support groups can play an important role. It really helps someone who is bursting with questions and doubts, on top of their inevitable grief, to hear others express similar feelings and emotions.

As one newcomer to the group remarked:I was astonished to hear her talk about the same feelings I have and the same behaviors I’m doing. Someone I’ve never met, not in my age group, probably with a completely different life than mine, doing the same things and feeling the exact same way as myself.”

Another fellow griever agreed: I was surprised that my reaction is normal. It’s nice to speak to others that recognize those dark moments.”

As you might imagine, there is a lot of sympathetic nodding and wry smiles of recognition at these meetings. We also go through a lot of tissues. And that’s perfectly OK, too.

Like any grief counseling session, the participants are encouraged to talk openly about their feelings and express whatever emotion overwhelms them. Pet loss support groups are resolutely safe places … places where nobody is allowed to feel disenfranchised.

And there’s also a lot of laughter, as we hear about how Stan the cat defended his place on the family couch or how Petra the dog had a habit of herding the young children towards the meal table at supper time. These are precious memories, shared with people who understand.

Complete Article HERE!

How to help a dog who is grieving the loss of a loved one

We ask the experts for their advice

By

For dogs, the loss of a human or another pet can have a traumatic impact on their lives. Much like humans, dogs grieve the absence of someone they love so it’s important we know how to help them.

Dogs experiencing a loss can show signs of confusion, fear or depression. If it’s the loss of their owner, you may notice dogs trying to figure out where that person has gone. If it’s another pet who has died, your dog may spend more time in their bed or favourite space, often with the hope that their friend may return.

A recent news story highlighted this sad truth when a dog owner shared heartbreaking images of her dog regularly returning to the bed where his best canine friend once slept. The dog left the same space for his deceased friend to sleep in night after night, despite him passing away a year before. Tugging on the heart strings of many, it created a discussion around how dogs grieve.

Claire Stallard, Behaviour and Training Manager at the Blue Cross tells Country Living: “The loss of a person or another pet may have a huge impact on your existing pet’s behaviour.

“Not only might they experience grief themselves due to the absence of a family member, they are also likely to pick up on the subtle changes in your behaviour too during this difficult time.”

What are the signs your dog is grieving?

Some dogs may show visible signs of grief, while others may completely withdraw and mourn quietly.

“Dogs’ ability to form strong social attachments with us and each other means they can have difficulty coping when they are suddenly separated from their companions. If their owner is grieving, the change in their behaviour and their normal routine can also have an impact,” Lisa Hens, RSPCA dog welfare expert tells Country Living.

“This varies greatly depending on the individual dog, and some owners report that, when one dog dies, the remaining dog seems very affected and may stop eating, for example. While others report that the remaining dog seems unaffected,” Lisa says.

Some of the signs that will indicate a change in your pet’s behaviour include…

  • Losing their appetite
  • They might cry a lot or be searching in areas where they expect the deceased family member to be
  • They might be wanting your attention more than usual
  • More time sleeping
  • Changes in apetite
  • Loss of interest in going for walks

How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety?

“Sadly, many dogs simply don’t know how to cope when their owner isn’t at home. Some dogs will bark or destroy things to show their feelings. While, others will simply sit there quietly, feeling worried,” Lisa from the RSPCA tells Country Living.

“This can happen on a day to day basis, not just after loss, and research suggests that 8 out of 10 dogs find it hard to cope when left alone, and worryingly half of these won’t show any signs, which means you may not always know if there’s a problem.”

What can you do to help your dog?

“Try not to worry too much about your pet’s behaviour during this time and try to stick to their familiar routine as much as possible. Losing a family member can be a difficult time for everyone, our pets included, but grieving is a natural behaviour. Like us, they can recover and move on in time with the support and care of their loving owners,” Claire says.

Remember, always talk to your vet if you are overly worried about your pet’s health and behaviour.

Some of the practical ways you can help include…

  • Be observant for any change in their behaviour
  • Try to keep to their normal routine as much as you can
  • Be patient, as it will take time for them to adjust to their new situation
  • They may need more quality time with you

Should you get another dog?

If it’s a family dog who has died, it can be tempting to get another one quickly so that your surviving pet has a companion. “Try not to rush into this decision too quickly, and if you do decide to get another pet, take things slowly, making sure the introductions are carried out carefully,” Claire explains.

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