By Mark Forrest Patrick, CDT VA
Do our pets grieve the loss of a family member or a family pet? As humans we grieve in a variety of ways. Because of the bond our pets have with us they often take on the emotional state of their human caretaker. Your pet may revert back to a behavior you have not seen in some time. An example might be eliminating in the house, barking for attention or chewing on your personal items.
Once your pet has acknowledged the death they may stop eating, play less and become reclusive. Our pets may also change the amount of sleep needed and the sleeping location. The surviving pet may become clingy looking for human comfort and care.
It is important to assist your pet in their grieving process. The most important step is to allow them to see and say their good-bye to their friend. This will allow the surviving pet to say good-bye and begin their process. Remember our canine companions process everything through their noses and are able to smell the death process. For your pets at home, take a clipping of the hair and take it home to allow the pets at home to smell the hair. Once you have allowed your surviving pet to smell the deceased pet, their behavior and attitude may change.
Keep your pets routine as normal as possible. Increase their exercise and activity with more walks and playtime. This will not only help them, it will also help you!
It is important not to get a new pet to assist your surviving pet with their grieving process. If you are thinking of getting another pet, do so only when you the handler is ready. When it is time for another pet keep in mind that the new family pet will NOT replace the pet you have recently lost. Each pet has his/her own identity and will establish his place in the pack. There may be some squabbling between the pets. Allow them to work out the hierarchy in the pack.
As the family grieves the loss of their companion it is important to remember all the great memories you had together and treasure them with a photo album to pay tribute to your pet. Those photos and memories will help you get through the grieving process and be there for your grieving pet. If your pet’s behavior does change, remember not to discipline and/or scold. Reach out to your resources and hire a professional who is prepared to assist you with your grieving pet. Your pet cannot speak and may be harboring his/her feelings inside for a long time.
Writing this column has been a rewarding a fulfilling experience for me. I hope you have enjoyed reading my column as much as I have enjoyed writing it. The time has come where I must sign off and say Thank You for this opportunity.
Mark Forrest Patrick, CDT VA is the owner and trainer at Tuxedo’s K9 Training Camp, Inc. for more information visit www.tuxedosk9.com