HELPING DOGS THROUGH GRIEF

Here’s something I never EVER thought about. Do dogs grieve? Yes, I believe they do. But here’s the million dollar question – how do you help dogs through grief?

I had no idea. Harley was grieving, but I didn’t know what to do. When I looked at him, it was like looking into my soul. His mournful expressions tore me apart. Soon I realized this was a mirror reflection of what he saw in me…

This face can melt and break your heart...

This face can melt and break your heart…

 

 GET IT TOGETHER CATHY 

I started looking for answers. I read an interesting article by Kathy Diamond Davis (from the Canine Behavior Series): WHEN YOUR DOG MOURNS THE LOSS OF ANOTHER DOG. One paragraph in particular, was a real eye opener:

Realize that without the other canine pack member, your dog’s position in life has now changed. You may now have a former leader dog without a follower. Or you may have a former follower dog without a canine leader. You will need to help your dog find the way to a healthy new position in the social order.

I could relate. There’s been a sudden change in the structure of our pack hierarchy…

Like peanut butter & jelly...

Like peanut butter & jelly…

Surely this was not something I had ever thought about – yet it “instantly” made sense to me. Harley was first and believe me, he was the leader! So now what was a Doodle Mom to do?

If you’ve previously done positive training with your dog, you’re in a great position to help the dog now.

Whew! I’m a huge fan of positive training, so I am at least on the right track.

Positive training to a reliable level of response usually creates a strong bond between handler and dog. It also creates clear communication between the two of you. The bond and the communication make it completely natural for the dog to look to you for leadership.

Seems surreal that I might finally get to be in charge!

So here’s how I’m trying to turn things around. I decided to focus first on “how to make it better.” Rather than wallow around in my dark place mumbling “whoa is me” – I redirected all of my energy and attention to Harley’s healing. Here are some suggestions that seemed like an excellent fit for us:

  • Take the grieving dog on more outings, if the dog enjoys outings. Maybe it’s just a walk to the mailbox. It could be a ride along in the car to a drive-through window at the bank or fast food place. Maybe it’s a stroll in a pleasant park, or down the block to chat with neighbors. Outings deepen the dog’s bond to you, and make the dog’s life more interesting. 
  • Create rituals the dog can look forward to each day. Spend 15 minutes grooming the dog or, if the dog has short hair, giving it a rubdown. 
  • Using your positive training, teach the dog a little trick or-even better-a little task the dog can do for you in your daily routine. The genuine pleasure you will take in the dog’s help will come through clearly to the dog. Play games together, such as hide and seek.
  • Feed some of the dog’s daily calories through some kind of active process. You could put the food into a food-dispensing toy. You could hide pieces of the food around the house or yard. Or you could use food during training for tricks or other skills. 

There was of course, additional information dedicated to adding another dog to the pack, I’m not ready to think about that let alone research it. Just not ready yet.

And finally when it comes to helping the family heal, I loved reading about:

What YOU DO to help your dog adjust to the life changes of losing a canine companion can be wonderfully healing for you.

When I realized how lost Harley was, my focus shifted immediately. I‘d found my purpose. I could no longer afford the luxury to grieve all day long. I had a Doodle to save!

I believe Harley is grateful that I’ve turned my way of thinking around, now he wants to play, and I’m playing with him. In fact, the other day the kids from next door came over with a Frisbee. When they asked if Harley liked to catch Frisbees, I said “no” but then I had to confess.

I don’t know how to throw a Frisbee. #truestories

The kids were great instructors – in no time I was throwing like a champ. Harley’s not catching it in the air yet, but he’s chasing…..

Running like a little rabbit

Running like a little rabbit

and bringing it back…..

DSCN4125

I’ve since purchased a few, so look out – I just might have a Frisbee Doodle on my hands…

He's really enjoying this game...

He’s really enjoying this game…

I’m sharing as I learn – as Harley and I “go through” with the hopes it may help someone else.

If you’ve lost a dog and have advice/successful tips on how to help the dog left behind to cope, heal and move forward – please let us know. Your experience with helping dogs through grief could be beneficial to someone…

…to include me…

Here are a few other sites I’ve found to be an interesting read:

PETS GRIEVE AFTER THE DEATH OF ANOTHER FAMILY PET

DO ANIMALS GRIEVE THE LOSS OF ANOTHER PET?

Thanks so much for reading, thanks so much for caring…

 

10 Comments
  • Scottie
    August 1, 2014

    Hey there – Makes pawfect sense to me. that’s exactly what I tell families I visit during the ‘bereavement visit’. Things are different now. It’s time to start new traditions or modify old traditions and habits. Life is for the living and you’ve got to carry on for those around you. Together you will all go through and get through it. There will be good and bad days, but little by little…….

    Hang in there – you’re doing better than you think!

    Hugs to Harley & you. 🙂

    • Cathy Bennett
      August 1, 2014

      Yes Scottie, I know it’s a process, and I pay attention to all suggestions from those who’ve braved this rabbit hole before me or for those like yourself who assist people like me, go through to get through. Harley is getting stronger every day, therefore so am I. Come visit soon, we’d both like that 🙂

  • Lonnie Shapiro
    August 1, 2014

    Love this blog Cathy! It makes so much sense, plus you are helping each other. I love the part about giving him chores to do and taking a certain time of the day to be together. In the end everyone is healing. Bless your hearts and we are sending lots of love, hugs and of course kisses from Libby.

    • Cathy Bennett
      August 1, 2014

      Thanks Lonnie, I’m trying and Harley is too! today he went to day camp for a couple of hours and he was so happy. He jumped on the elevator like “old times” tail wagging constantly as the doors closed. One day at a time – that’s how the song goes. Thanks for your friendship.

  • Emma
    August 1, 2014

    Mom went through this with Katie. Katie came from her dog mom to our Mom and Trine. Trine passed away when Katie was 16 months old. Mom was so sad, the last thing she wanted was to deal with Katie, but they were stuck with each other after kissing Trine one last time and leaving the vet without her. They did lots of snuggling, Mom talked to Katie a lot about Trine,but Katie was kind of lost. She spent about two months searching for Trine before she accepted she was gone. They left her bed and other items out for a time too so Mom could see and smell them as well as Katie could. It was hard, but Mom just kept up their routines, tried her best to shower Katie with extra attention and the two of them worked through it.

    • Cathy Bennett
      August 1, 2014

      Emma, please give your mom a huge hug, and lick her face good for us. Reading this helps me so much. It gives me strength because it reinforces that I’m not alone. I do see progress in Harley which helps me believe there is progress with me also. Thanks so much for sharing, it means more than you know….

  • DashLilly
    August 1, 2014

    Definitely you two are a team. As much as you are looking out for Harley, he is looking out for you. And what a frisbee doodle! We haven’t tried a frisbee here yet. Might have to. Dash, Lilly and I send you and Harley lots of love and light. Grief is a process, glad you are letting yourselves go through it together.

    • Cathy Bennett
      August 2, 2014

      DashLilly, Harley has helped us both out in so many ways. He’s still learning the true frisbee techniques, but most of the problems with the Frisbee still lie with me perfecting my Frisbee toss – I’m still at the pitiful stage 🙁

  • Sand Spring Chesapeakes
    August 8, 2014

    So so very sorry, how sad and this post was done so well, thank you, I know this will help others and I hope others can help you. I lost my heart dog in November last year I had 3 other dogs and I can’t say it bothered any of them (which is ok) but it sure bothered me and I had to learn how to live without Norman, I to am still learning as each time I think of him I still cry. 🙁

    • Cathy Bennett
      August 8, 2014

      I love looking at those pictures on your blog of Norman. He has such a regal look! I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. I don’t want to be the grim reaper pet blogger BOL – but so many people were connected to Leo, it only seems right to periodically share this journey that Harley and I have been so prematurely thrust into. People just like you are helping me so much with my healing process, because you’ve gone through my stage of grief already and you’re honest and open with how you’ve dealt with it, therefore allowing me to know (1) I’m not crazy, and (2) I’m not alone. I cherish and am so grateful for all the FURRendships.

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