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Grieving pets

By Gay Published: October 12, 2009

We know now, because the scientists have told us what we knew all along—dogs and cats (all animals) are far smarter and more emotional than anyone thought. Except, of course, for those of us who have lived with animals for a long time.

I always wondered about kittens and puppies taken from their mothers. What did the mother think? Was she grief-stricken?

My son’s friend’s dog stayed with us for a summer, and then he took her back to her home, and I watched him drive away—she had her nose pressed against the window, watching me wave. Her final owner (she was the dog of a college kid whose family couldn’t or wouldn’t keep her, and his apartment building forbid animals) said she moped and was depressed for three days. My son delivered her to her original owner, who drove her to a home that wanted her very much and had had her before. I was in contact with the new “granddad”, and he said she was so unhappy and wouldn’t eat nor play ball. That dog was the best ball player I ever saw. Finally, some neighborhood kids, a group of five or six boys about ten years old, came to the door and asked if she could come out and play. She could, she did, and she went with those boys everywhere. She lived a long and happy and love-filled life. But she had been moved around a lot, from mother to humane society, to another home which brought her back, etc.

When we got our last puppies, the scene was quite chaotic. Mom and Pop were on the premises, as were the grandmother and grandfather (these are dogs we’re talking about). There were seven puppies. Two of them picked us, and we did the paperwork, exchanged money for pups, and started to take them to the car. We stopped and went back to the mother dog who was wagging her tail bravely and half-heartedly. We held the pups for her to see, and took her to the car with us and put the pups in. She gave them a last sniff and lick. It is stressful for the pups, too, to leave their mother and littermates and other animals. They should not leave home before they are seven to eight weeks old, and for some small breeds, ten weeks is best. Our last dogs were six weeks, which was too early. Fortunately, they were social and pleasant and had learned well from their mom

I have since read that it is always best to let the parent see the pup or kitten being taken. She will still grieve for the, but she will know they are gone. Otherwise, she will spend hours searching for them. This, for me, is another reason to adopt a shelter animal. The are so grateful to have a home and no sad farewells. We have had so many shelter animals and strays, and they have all been great.

I blogged about the death of our female and her last seconds on earth with her best friend and littermate and how they keened together. Jake fretted and mourned her, but he knew that she was gone.

The bottom line is to allow your animals to see what is happening if there is a death or a transfer to a new home. They will be better able to deal with the loss and acclimate themselves to an altered life.

--By Gay Fifer, Parsley Hollow, Inc - http://www.parsleyhollow.com/

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