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Do Pets Grieve the Death of Their Owners?

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 by

a tan dog lays in the grass looking sad.

By Coleen Ellis, founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, and blogger for dog insurance and cat insurance provider Pets Best Insurance.

If you haven’t seen the photo of Hawkeye, a beautiful black lab, laying by the casket of his deceased military owner you must check it out. The photo is sure to tug at the heart strings of even the most hardened of hearts.

Or possibly you’ve heard the story of Bobby, who survived his owner by 14 years, and is said to have spent the rest of his life sitting on his master’s grave — leaving for meals at a nearby restaurant — only to become the subject of biographies, a novel, two films and a commemorative statue.

Yes, pets grieve for the loss of their owner companions, too. We have domesticated our pets to the point that their emotions have been a controversial topic of conversation for years. Can they feel? Can they reason? Can they mourn?

Most certainly they do mourn. When a pet’s owner dies, there are numerous ways that you can help the pet through their grief journey.

First of all, let the pet see and smell their deceased owner. More and more hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice centers and funeral homes are recognizing the importance of allowing a pet to see their deceased owner. While it does not take away their grief, it will confirm for them what has happened with the person so that the pet will not continue to look for them.

Secondly, keep the pet’s routine as normal as possible. If the pet is going to be residing with someone else after their owner’s death, pay special attention to the communication signals that the pet is giving off. For instance, the pet may walk to the door at a certain time each day. Possibly this was the time the previous owner would take the pet on a walk. Or the pet goes to their food dish at a certain time, signaling that it was time to be fed.

Thirdly, night time will trigger the most intense feelings of separation. By letting the pet sleep near its new owners will let them know that they are safe and minimize their anxiousness.

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