When our dogs are sad, we are sad. Dogs are family and when a dog is not feeling well or is grieving the loss of another person or pet, then we naturally want to comfort our dog. Dogs display emotion and sadness in different ways and we need to identify that grief and also be able to spark joy into their lives again.
The article, “How to help a dog who is grieving the loss of a loved one” by Lisa Walden states,
“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 passed away, your dog may spend more time in their bed or favorite places, often with the hope that their friend may return.”
Losing a pet is not a minor thing in life. A cat, dog, or horse is a long term companion. To some, the pet is even family. Learning to live without the pet is something harder to do than other people may imagine.
The article, “4 Things I Learned About Grief After My Dog Died” by Deanna Adams discusses the pains of losing a dog. She states,
“Sometimes the death of a beloved pet comes suddenly and sometimes it’s expected. It can be tragic, traumatic and devastating. The loss is keenly felt and lives often change abruptly. Many of us consider our pets to be family, not “just a dog,” or “just a cat.” The death of a pet can hurt as much as the loss of a relative for some people”
The loss of a pet is a big deal. Dogs, cats and horses are like family. As the issue becomes larger, professionals are asking if a person should receive bereavement day for the loss of dog or cat or horse. While many do not receive days for aunts or uncles, but only parents or children, employers should consider giving someone a day to grieve the death of a pet. This is best for the business and the mindset of the griever.
The article, “Should employees be allowed bereavement leave when a pet dies?” by Kate Palmer states,
“Currently, there is no legal requirement for employers to allow their employees any time off work when their pet dies and, currently, no right to any form of bereavement leave at all. Permitting time off for employees in times of bereavement is down to the discretion of their employer and it is perfectly acceptable for them to refuse such a request.”
Losing a pet is traumatic but is there a line to be drawn before it becomes too abnormal? For instance, losing a dog or cat is questioned by some as not a true loss. Obviously this loss is subjective to the person who loss the animal but it is clear dogs, cats and even horses are companions. They are more like family to many and to some, all they have. Can it be taken farther to include mice, or fish? This is a difficult question when something crosses the line as a pathology and not recognizing the reality of grief in the person. The grief definitely needs respected but what are the lines that should be drawn in regards to abnormal reactions? Individuals can form unhealthy bonds, but those bonds still exist and need respected.
The article, “Why I’m Mourning The Death Of My Hedgehog As Much As Any Dog Or Cat” by Gark Mavigan looks at why grief can be over any type of loss and should be respected. He states.
“Vicky and I had cried enough tears to make a small island out of Northern California’s favorite whitewashed Mexican food chain. We’d only been married a few months, so this was our tragedy honeymoon, our first time facing loss head-on as a team.
“Do you think she’s in heaven? Or hedgie heaven?” I tried to eke a smile out of Vicky’s puffed-up face, though I was legitimately curious.”
Again, grieving over loss is a normal thing. One can grieve over the loss of any pet. The subjective connection is the key. Whether that connection is healthy or not is not the concern initially of the grief counselor, but helping the person adjust to the loss in a proportionate way. It is not so much that certain losses are greater or less, but first acknowledging one’s loss and helping one through it.
The loss of a pet can be very traumatic. Pets are family and the loss of a pet can be as traumatic as losing a family member. Unfortunately, many individuals mock this type of loss and mock it as insignificant. This is unfortunate and very untrue. The loss of a pet needs to be respected as a significant loss.
The article, “Here’s How the Death of a Pet Can Be Just as Traumatic as Other Forms of Grief” by Philip Ellis states,
“So often, when an animal companion dies and the human partner is bereft, well-meaning people say things such as: ‘it’s only a dog,’ ‘come on, get over it,’ ‘you can always get another one,’ ‘they’re better off,’ ‘be strong,’ ‘you’re crying too much,’ ‘get a life.’ And so the grief-stricken suffer again.”
The loss of a pet, especially a dog, cat or horse can be devastating. It is not something to be tossed to the side. It cannot be compared or lessened to the loss of a family member because pets are family. The loss of a dog especially can be very traumatic to a family. A dog plays a special role in the family’s life. In many ways, a dog from puppy to death is like having a child and losing him or her. The attachment and love is real and should not be mocked or ridiculed. Yet, people feel ashamed at times to express this love and pain for fear of ridicule.
It is important to not reduce the impact of a loss of a dog or pet. The article, “Why losing a dog can be harder than losing a relative or friend” by Frank McAndrew states,
“Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one.”
In many legal senses, dogs are seen as property. The reality though is they are not property but family. Legal terms can be cold and lead to the devaluing of our pets. It is important in all venues to see pets as individuals, who although may not be people with rights, still nonetheless are seen with intrinsic value beyond.
The article,”Maine Voices: Dog’s day in court isn’t about property – it’s about the human-animal bond” by PAULA GERSTENBLATT relates how it is more than just property disputes in court but a human-animal bond. The article states,
“In a recent editorial, “Our View: Dogs shouldn’t get their day in court” (May 16, Page A6), the Editorial Board writes: “Pets may seem like family, but they’re property – which is how courts should rule.” Research on the human-animal bond indicates pets are considered family, and the connection equals or exceeds that experienced between humans.”
Pets are family. The loss of a pet can be traumatizing because of this. When we start to objectively define loss for another as small or not significant, we miss the whole point of grief. Grief is a reaction to loss and the severity is connected to the level of love. A dog or cat or horse are all great companions. These type of higher intelligent companion pets have connections with the person that cannot be ignored. Lesser intelligent pets may not have the emotional connection, but as grief counselors, we need to recognize in particular cases the affect of the loss on the person.
So it is important that the loss of pets be taken far more seriously. An individual who loves his dog and lost his companion will suffer as much as a person who may have lost a brother. Just because some individuals do not love animals, does not invalidate the legitimate bond with our pets.
The article, “Why we should start recognising the loss of a pet as ‘real grief'” by Jill Stark looks at this type of loss more deeply and why it is so important to recognize. She states,
“There is often the expectation to keep feelings “in perspective” or to move on and “just get another one” – as if our pets are interchangeable non-entities we can replace like an old pair of socks.”
I feel, these terms used by many towards the grieving over pets are insensitive and dodge the real loss and pain. One can never replace a family member and because of this, one can never replace a pet.
Great article on talking to a child about the death of a pet. The death of a pet is a horrible loss but is also usually the first death experience for a child. It is important to properly grieve the loss but to also use it as teaching moment to explain death. While a teaching moment may be very difficult for the loss of a dog, horse or cat, it may be easier if it is a goldfish, or hampster.
The article, “The Dog Isn’t Sleeping: How To Talk With Children About Death” by Cody Turner states,
“My parents exchanged pained glances. I know now that life had put them in an impossible bind. Mingo had been dying for months and suffering for weeks. The vet urged euthanasia then and there. My parents reluctantly but humanely agreed. But how to tell me? So they didn’t, hoping to wait until after my birthday.”