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Animals and Their Grief


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Just four months before Dennis was diagnosed, we adopted a 5 week old kitten named Jake. Jake was your normal, run of the mill, playful baby until Dennis became ill. Suddenly, Jake would spend every minute with Dennis. He would sit in his recliner with him and make little dough balls on his chest. He would then lie his head as close to Dennis's face as possible and never move. When Dennis became bedridden, it was impossible to keep Jake out of the hospital bed. We would have to lock him out of the room when the nurse was here to care for Dennis. On the morning that Dennis died, poor Jake stood outside the bedroom door, looking in, and actually howled. I had never heard such an expression of pain or grief from a cat. He would not enter the room but just stood on the threshold crying. For months, he was very distant with me. He would tolerate me, as he knew I fed him but he would never cozy up to me as my other cats do. Then one day, out of the blue, Jake jumped on the couch with me. Since then, he has been my constant companion. He is as close to me now as he was with Dennis. It's a little scary, as I wonder if something is going on with my health that Jake knows and I don't. It took him almost two years after Dennis died to get to this point. To beat it all, he was my kitten....a birthday present from Dennis.

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Animals are very sensitive to these things I think. My Mom and Dad's dog became a little distant with my mom after she started chemo. I don't know if it was the different smell or what, but dad said when mom started to get worse Riley was right there with mom all the time. After she passed she would lay at their bedroom door looking out into the hallway waiting for her. That just killed my dad. Finally, she started getting up in bed with dad and know Nicolas and Connor fight with the dog over who gets to sleep with Dad when we go see him! :lol: Riley, I believe, was sent to my mom and dad to help my Dad for when Mom passed. She has been a great comfort to him since Mom has been gone, and Dad has even said he didn't know what he would have done if Riley hadn't been there after Mom passed. Thank God for pets! We used to tease my Mamaw that when my Papaw passed away that he always said he was coming back as a dog, and that we had better take in the first stray dog that came around. Mamaw moved in with us after he did and we took in the first dog that came around; a big black dog we called Bud. The best dog we ever had. That dog was VERY protective of Mamaw, but the thing was she would not touch a dog. She couldn't stand to touch the fur, not even a fur coat! She never once petted that dog! But, he never let a stranger close to her and went where ever she went. I told her once that it was Papaw and she laughed. I said, "Watch!" The dog wasn't even looking at us and I just said,"Papaw!" That dog turned around and looked at us and came to us wagging that big tail!!! :lol: Who knows maybe it was him. So don't turn that stray dog or cat away, you never know!! :lol::wink:

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I do think animals are extremely sensetive to our feelings. Cats especially seem to have a "sixth sense"and know when someone needs comforting. I am glad your little cat has taken to you now, she will be a lot of company for you.

After my husband died "his" little dog "Hobie" , a "Schipperke",became very distant towards me too. He was definately sad and missed David, I could see that. At the time we had a house full of people down for the memorial, so I gave our room to my brother and sister-in-law and slept in a spare room. One morning when my brother was still in bed, I crept in to get something out of my closet. Hobie followed me and thinking that it was Dave in the bed he became really excited and jumped and landed on top of my brother. Realizing his mistake he immediately jumped off again! The expression on the poor dog's faced went from happiness to grief in a moment, it nearly broke my heart.

I can't say he is as affectionate with me as he was with Dave, even now, but the other day when I was having a good old "bawling session", he became quite concerned and came over and gave me a big lick on the face. I must say he has been a great comfort and I don't know what I would do without him.


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In 2002 we had two dogs. One of them died of cancer. Prairie Dog was left here and she grieved. She went into a depression for about two months, ate very little, laid around looking sad. I would go over and start petting her and she would actually get up and move away a couple of feet, like thanks Mom but I just want to be by myself. The only time she seemed happy was during a walk, so I took her on more walks. I also bought some anxiety drops for dogs, that seemed to help some. After two months she was more herself but she really wasn't okay until we took in another dog, our Andy. That seemed to fill that empty space for her.

Now - Prairie Dog is looking quite puzzled, looking at me questioning, and not having much to do with Jim. I think she knows. She isn't unkind, she is just not going over to him now. Andy, on the other hand, stays with Jim almost all the time and sleeps with him in the bed.

So I know, dogs do have feelings and they do feel grief. All we can do for them is give them more of what makes it okay - treats, walks, or a new companion.

It is real for them, too, and healing is real, eventually. Margaret

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Your story really hit home with me. We have two cats, one all white stray that we took in and one is a blue-point siamese. Well, needless to say, the siamese didn't like having to share his home with "some stray" off the streets and for the past three years has decided that he likes NOBODY in our household...until about four weeks ago. Out of the blue he jumped up on the couch with Bill...snuggled up actually pushing the other cat off his lap and has yet to leave his side...even sleeping in our bed with Bill. We cannot figure this one out at all, but Bill did mention the other day that he wondered if Caesar (the siamese) knows something that we don't yet know. I do think that animals have some sixth sense or connection to our emotional state.

Now...if only I can get our African Grey parrot to clean up his vocabulary :oops: and show some family support....but that's a whole other story.

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When my mom was diagnosed she moved in with me. One of my saint bernards became glued to mom. She was always by my moms side and even slept with her at night. Everyone knows how friendly saint bernards are by nature the gentle giants of the dogs. When my mom needed to go into hospice the first time. The ambulance drivers came in the house and she started growling and showing her teeth the hair was all lifted on her back. I could not believe this was coming from the most loving dog you could ever meet. That trip my mom was at hospice for 5 days and the dog slept in moms bed here the entire time and she lost all interest in eating. It is amazing how sensitive pets really are.

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Hi Ann,

I have had a cat for 11 yrs. She's around but not a people cat. When

I was sick I couldn't get her off my bed. Now that I'm better she's off

by herself again. Animals never cease to amaze me. Another cat I had

30 yrs. ago when I was pregnant w/ my second daughter drove me crazy, she never left my side until I delivered. Who are we to say they

don't know. Just some animals care about us more than others. Just like

people. Take care!

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Pet Loss & Grieving

This is the third in a four-part series on pet loss and grieving.

''Grief is itself a medicine.'' —William Cowper 1731-1800

Although western civilization is centuries removed from the Descartian view that animals feel little or no emotion, only in the past ten years have scientists begun to truly recognize that animals lead emotionally rich lives. One such study conducted in 1996, the Companion Animal Mourning Project, documented evidence that most animals experience emotional responses to significant changes in their environment, and that includes the loss of animal or human companions.

"It's important for people to realize that the same brain neurochemistry that allows humans to feel is the same chemistry that many animals have," says Emily Levine, DVM, animal behavior resident at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Some animals can actually become depressed when they lose a loved one," says Monique D. Chretien, MSc, AHT, Animal Behavior Consultant. "They show symptoms similar to humans such as loss of interest in their favorite activities, loss of appetite, disorientation, and sleeping more than usual."

Cats and dogs alike may continue to wait or look for a deceased human or animal companion. Cats may meow or howl more frequently or sit and stare for periods of time. Some cats or dogs may stop eating all together. Chretien advises providing a grieving cat or dog with more attention and affection, treats or toys.

Levine recommends giving animals the time to recover some of their normal behavior patterns before introducing a new companion pet. The last thing you want, she says, is to overload your grieving pet with another environmental change, or new companion. She suggests trying to arrange first meetings or an introduction of a new pet around positive events, like attention and play.

Based upon the 1996 study, an animal's grieving process usually resolves in one to six months. Here are some ways to help your pet through the process:

1.Keep the rest of your pet's life as stable as possible with consistent feeding, grooming, and play time

2. Don't change your pet's brand of food

3. Leave a few of the deceased animal's toys, items, or bedding around the house for a few weeks

4. Spend extra time with your grieving pet

You should consult your veterinarian if your pet stops eating for more than a couple of days, has vomiting or diarrhea, becomes overly aggressive for an extended period of time, or continues to be severely depressed over two weeks.

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Wow, what great information. Thanks so very much for sharing this with us. I do know that Jake spent a lot of time just staring into space, something he had never done before!

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My story is a little different. Misty was Johnny's "little camping buddy" for eight years. She went where he went and ate what he ate. She also slept with him. Once we were together she became our dog to him but to her and me she will always really be his dog.

Not long after his death I noticed that no matter how many women were around she would pass them up to go to the one man she saw. She still does that after more than two years. Often when we are walking if she sees a man in the distance who is about Johnny's height or dressed as he would she tries to get to him any way she can..

One night about a month or two after his death she did something very strange. I have always heard that like children animals see and hear more than we do. That night I was on my computer(I would stay up until 4 in the morning dreading to go to bed alone). She usually slept by my feet while I was working on the computer. That night I felt her sit up. When I looked down she was staring at the side of the bed where Johnny would set sometimes. She just kept staring for a couple of minutes. Then she looked up at me with a puzzled look on her face as if she were saying "do you see what I see?". Then she looked back toward the side of the bed and continued to stare for another five minutes before she lay down again... Sense I had already had experiences that told me that Johnny is still with me I really wasn't surprised. I felt his presence and I'm sure that she saw him in his usual place on the side of the bed..

I also have a video of Johnny. Every now and then I need to see him and hear his voice so I play it. Still when she hears his voice she comes and lays at my side. She also gets closer when I cry. For the first year whenever she heard his voice on that tape she would lay in front of the television for the rest of the day..

We get along good. She knows what to expect from me and I know what to expect from her. I'm not as affectionate to her as Johnny was and for a while that bothered me but now I know that our relationship is exactly the way she wants it to be. I love her. She loves me and gets excited when I get home from work but I know still that she will always be Johnny's dog and I am just taking care of her until she goes to be with him again.

She never really acted any differently when he was sick or on chemo.

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My wonderful dog, Dagwood, would stand at the doorway of my daughter's room and look in, looking for her. Just recently, I see him going in the room and looking around. He is a fabulous buddy. He was attached to Jennifer. I know he misses her. He's better now, but sometimes he does stare into space and almost looks like he sees someone. Maybe that's me wishing he does "see something." Anyway, when I was sick, Daggie never left my side . I spent hours and hours on the couch and on the terrace. He never left my side. Even though his breath STINKS he's my GOOD BOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dogs Rule!!!!!!



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