To show a pet the body of a friend or not
I pre-apologize because this is likely to be a long post. I wanted to explain where my ideas are coming from.
When I finally had my old cat, Snowball, put to sleep at age 19, I was worried about how my 16 year old cat, Spooky, would take her passing. I had been told that it is sometimes helpful to let the remaining animal view the body. Since that wasn't really feasible, I tearfully brought in the empty carrier and set it in the cat room for him to see. All my other animals came right up and sniffed it then walked away resignedly. Then Spooky caught sight of it and he stared. His mouth opened and he began panting, which I had never seen him do; I thought he was going to have a breakdown. Then finally he lay down and was quiet for the rest of the weekend. I do believe he grieved, but he bonded pretty quickly with our other cat and has bounced back fine.
About the same time, at the shelter we had two chihuahuas, Lola and Lyle, who had been together forever. Lyle was very crippled and Lola took care of him. We considered them a bonded pair, which means they must be adopted out together. After quite some time, they were adopted; soon after, the adoptive family learned that Lyle had cancer and they wanted to keep Lola, but bring Lyle back to the shelter. The director allowed it because of the circumstances. At first, I felt really bad about this, what would they do without one another? But then I had kind of a revelation...Lyle and Lola had been apart before. Lyle often had been at the vets without Lola, volunteers sometimes walked Lola without Lyle, etc., etc. These dogs do not understand English. They don't know that they are never going to see each other again. Lola had a new family to distract her from Lyle's absence; Lyle went to a great foster home, also a distraction. I think by the time it dawned on them that they had been apart a long time (not sure dogs understand "never") the memory would have dimmed enough that it perhaps isn't a huge problem for either of them.
So I wonder if it would have been the same way with my cats? If I hadn't made a big production of letting Spooky see the empty carrier, would he have just assumed Snowball was at an extended vet visit and missed her, but not been burdened with the knowledge that she had died? Was I burdening him with it to make myself feel better, kind of a misery-loves-company scenario?
P.S. Lyle has gone through chemo, and so far, is doing great. He will most likely be in his foster home forever.