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  • Writer's pictureSieske Valk

How pets grieve their animal companion

Do animals grieve their animal companions? We’ve all heard stories about cats and dogs grieving their guardians. Barbara J. King wrote a beautiful book called How Animals Grieve describing various species’ grieving over their fellow species, or even inter-species grief. She also did a great TED Talk on grief and love in the animal kingdom.

Having read the book, we always insist all furry, feathered and scaled housemates be present during or after euthanasia, so they can say their goodbyes in their own way.

Let me share a story of one euthanasia we performed, showing how a canine friend not only supported his guardian through the process but also said goodbye after their friend passed away.

We were called in to euthanise an elderly dog. Upon arriving at the house, their younger “sibling” was bouncing against the walls of excitement because they had visitors. After thoroughly inspecting our bags, he finally settled on the sofa behind his guardian as the latter sat on the floor next to the elderly dog.

As we started the procedure, the young dog started to doze off and turned away from us. Once the elderly dog started passing away, taking a few last deep breaths, the young dog woke up, put their head on the guardian’s shoulder and observed the happenings.

Once their sibling had passed away, they leapt off the sofa, sniffed their sibling and gathered the essence of them was not there anymore. They then took themselves to the kitchen and waited for us to leave with their sibling’s body.

Pets, just like children, need to be shown or told, what has happened. If you keep them in the dark, they will become restless and continue looking for their furry partner in crime. I’ve found that with every euthanasia where there are other pets in the household, the animal that stays behind will quickly understand that their mate is not there anymore and the body that is left, is not their friend.

A brown dog looking very sadly into the distance
Photo credit: Ryan Stone on Unsplash

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