To show a pet the body of a friend or not - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 08-26-2014, 11:46 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 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.
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Old 08-26-2014, 12:46 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I believe in letting my critters see/snif the departed friend. What convinced me of this is when my husbands horse passed overnight. That morning I covered her and I had to go to work for a few hours and then meet the guy that would take her away. When I came home I walked to the barn and my horse looked at me and gave this heart wrenching whinny. My neighbor said he stayed by her side the whole time. I thought about taking him out in the trails so he wouldn't see them take her away but I decided to leave him in the barn. I didn't want him to cry for her like he did when we gave a pony he was attached to away. He stayed in his stall and when I let him out he wasn't frantically searching for her.
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Old 08-26-2014, 01:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
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That makes sense. I wonder how much they can sense by either smell or instinct, that they just "know." Like for instance, perhaps Lola knew long before we did that Lyle had something wrong and would not live a long life?? Also, maybe part of our pets' job is to share things with us, including our grief. So maybe it's wrong to spare them anyhow. Of course every animal is different and every human's needs are different too. But I would love to see a study done comparing pets that are actively invited to share in mourning vs. ones that are not, just to see in general which group "bounces back" faster. Clearly, with your horse, you made the correct choice.
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Old 08-26-2014, 05:19 PM   #4 (permalink)
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From personal experience, I think it is a good idea to show the living pet that his buddy has passed. I had two guinea pigs. The younger had never been without his older big buddy. I had to rush the older guinea pig to the E-vet, with a blockage. He didn't make it. It did not occur to me to allow the other guinea pig to sniff the body.

"Snickers" started to grieve. He was withdrawn, quiet and wouldn't eat. I was afraid I was going to lose him. I took in another older guinea pig and Snickers came around quickly. Snickers also outlived that guinea pig. When she died, I allowed Snickers to see and smell her. He was absolutely fine.

I don't how much these little brains are able to absorb. But, I do know it made a difference in how Snickers dealt with the loss of his buddies.
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