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Dogs May Mourn as Deeply as Humans Do - US News and World Report

By Maryann Mott
HealthDay Reporter
FRIDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Jon Tumilson's dog, Hawkeye, was an important part of his life.


And, as it turns out, Tumilson was an important part of Hawkeye's life.


After the Navy SEAL was killed in Afghanistan last summer, more than a thousand friends and family attended the funeral in Rockford, Iowa, including his "son" Hawkeye, a black Labrador retriever who, with a heavy sigh, lay down in front of Tumilson's flag-draped casket. There, the loyal dog stayed for the entire service.


Hawkeye's reaction to his owner's death generated a lot of buzz online and in the media. But it's not unusual, according to pet experts, for some dogs to mourn the loss of a favorite person or animal housemate.


Grief is one of the basic emotions dogs experience, just like people, said Dr. Sophia Yin, a San Francisco-based veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist. Dogs also feel fear, happiness, sadness, anger, as well as possessiveness.



Dogs who mourn may show similar signs to when they're separated for long periods of time from the individual they're bonded to, she said. Of those signs, depression is the most common, in which dogs usually sleep more than normal, move slower, eat less and don't play as much.


The beginnings of such a strong inter-species bond between humans and dogs dates back some 15,000 years, when early man and the ancestor of today's dog roamed the Earth together.


Today, after thousands of years of friendship, there's a great deal of attunement between humans and dogs, not only in terms of comprehension of each other's gestures and body language but also emotionally, said Barbara King, a professor of anthropology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.


It's not just evolutionary logic, or reading peer-reviewed science literature that's convinced King that dogs (as well as cats) feel deep grief. Interviews with astute pet owners for her upcoming book, How Animals Grieve, and the power of observation, has also led her to this conclusion.


Case in point: a grainy video posted on YouTube that captured the image of a scruffy terrier running onto a busy highway in Chile to rescue another dog, hit moments earlier, by a car. As vehicles whiz by the terrier, he instinctively wraps his paws around the injured dog, dragging him off the road to safety.



"When you look at that sort of example, again, you see that these dogs are thinking and feeling creatures, and that sets the stage for grief," she said.


Through her research, King has found that in households with two dogs who've lived together for a number of years, some owners report that when one dog dies, the other gets depressed. Skeptics might point to a change in daily routine as the cause of depression or, perhaps, because the owner is upset and grieving. But King feels differently.


"The surviving dog is searching around the house for a lost companion -- looking in favorite places, going to places that they spent with their friend, very pointed actions that tell you the dog is missing his friend," she said.



In an effort to understand what dogs are thinking, researchers at Emory University in Atlanta are conducting brain scans of dogs using functional MRI (fMRI).


Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and lead researcher on the project, hopes their work will reveal secrets of the dog-human relationship, from the dog's perspective.


Even with high-tech tools, though, determining whether canines experience grief would be tough, he admitted, because he believes it's unknown how grief looks in the human brain. If it were known, however, Berns said researchers could then look for this emotion in the dog but it would require showing pictures, perhaps movies, of the deceased human or canine.


"It would be fascinating to figure out," said Berns, who normally uses fMRI technology to study how the human mind works. "If I were to speculate, I would guess that, like people, some dogs mourn and others don't."


King agrees. After all, she said, dogs possess unique personalities and react differently, even in the same situation. Whether a dog grieves hinges on a dynamic mix of life experiences, added King, including how they were raised and what their people or animal housemates were like.


If a pet mopes around the house after the death of a canine or human companion, Yin suggests the best thing owners can do is to get their dog's mind off the loss by engaging their pet in fun activities such as a game of fetch, brisk walks and play dates with other pets. "The activity depends on what the dog historically likes," she said.
Don't expect a quick fix. It may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, pet experts believe, before a dog's spirits begin to lift.
 

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I believe without a doubt that animals mourn, I've seen it happen very obviously in two cases growing up

We had a yellow lab who was diagnosed with cancer at 11, we decided to get another puppy before he got too sick. We got a golden retriever puppy a few weeks later and they became fast friends, Jenna was only 5 months old when Woody became too ill and even though they only spend 2.5 months together they were ery close. When my parents came back from putting him down they brought his collar back and left it on the coffee table, a short while later it disappeared and when we looked we found Jenna curled up with it in her crate. We allowed her to have it for a few days and she never chewed it or damaged it in an way, simply slept with it

Years later we had two cats at the time, and Shadow was 19 and very ill so we put her down and our other cat Cinder started to refuse to eat and wouldn't come out of the basement. She dropped weight drastically so we took her to the vet and her kidneys had shut down and the vet couldn't explain it. We ended up putting both cats down within 10 days of each other
 

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Amazing article.

Humans are animals, as are dogs... I think they have emotions, too. Maybe not the same exact ones expressed in the same exact ways, but emotions nonetheless. I have seen animals express grief, so I agree that yes, animals mourn.
 

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This comes at a good time, my mom just lost her battle with cancer early this morning.

My parents Lab is following my dad really closely, my mom was her person.


RIP mom, I love you and I miss you already
 

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I'm, so sorry :-(

I believe without a doubt that animals mourn, I've seen it happen very obviously in two cases growing up

We had a yellow lab who was diagnosed with cancer at 11, we decided to get another puppy before he got too sick. We got a golden retriever puppy a few weeks later and they became fast friends, Jenna was only 5 months old when Woody became too ill and even though they only spend 2.5 months together they were ery close. When my parents came back from putting him down they brought his collar back and left it on the coffee table, a short while later it disappeared and when we looked we found Jenna curled up with it in her crate. We allowed her to have it for a few days and she never chewed it or damaged it in an way, simply slept with it

Years later we had two cats at the time, and Shadow was 19 and very ill so we put her down and our other cat Cinder started to refuse to eat and wouldn't come out of the basement. She dropped weight drastically so we took her to the vet and her kidneys had shut down and the vet couldn't explain it. We ended up putting both cats down within 10 days of each other
 

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Our Lab and terrier mix got out through an open gate a few years ago, and went along the nearby creek then crossed the road. A snowplow hit and instantly killed the Lab, a neighbor had pull the terrier off the road, she wouldn't leave her. She wouldn't sleep that night, she just kept pacing. Before the accident she was a healthy 7 year dog, she deteriorated daily, started having seizures, heart problems, and barely eating. We made many trips to the vet, even left her overnight once for observation, they were never able to diagnosis anything. She passed away in her sleep 6 weeks after we lost Toby. I just think her heart was broken.
 

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If anyone has any doubt as to whether or not dogs mourn, read this story: (formerly posted under 'Current Dog Affairs' on this forum)

Dog stands guard over deceased owner?s grave for six years | The Sideshow - Yahoo! News

I think most of us with 4-legged pets KNOW they mourn - but, for some reason, "researchers" have to be convinced!:D

Have you guys seen the movie, "Hachi"? Another example. (I just saw it this past weekend - cried like a baby...)
 

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Dogs mourn just as people do. My father passed away not long ago and he had gotten a dog for us back in 2001. He is a rescue dog and grew close to us but most of all to dad always at his side. When dad passed our dog at first didn't realize what happened I think. He just saw the medics near him and having just been to the hospital he had had days where dad wasn't around. When he left the last time and we had to leave the area Our dog sort of shut down. For a while refused food and only drank if I gave it to him in my hand. He would come to me and lean on me as he had never done before. We mourned together. He is not a high energy dog and has never played so all I could do was give him extra cuddles that both of us needed and let him know he was still wanted and loved by someone in this world.
 

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Does anyone know about how long a dog will mourn? My 10.5yr old male passed last Wednesday and back in Dec we got another puppy he was 8wks old and took to Niko right away, they have been side by side for the past 4mo...now my pup seems lost he will whine and whine sit by the door like he is waiting for him, lay in ALL Nikos spots (and its making it hard on us as well) the only thing at this point that will perk him up is when my 9yr old son comes home from school...it breaks my heart to see my pup like this...anyone have this happen and could shed some light on when the ache will stop for him??
 

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Does anyone know about how long a dog will mourn? My 10.5yr old male passed last Wednesday and back in Dec we got another puppy he was 8wks old and took to Niko right away, they have been side by side for the past 4mo...now my pup seems lost he will whine and whine sit by the door like he is waiting for him, lay in ALL Nikos spots (and its making it hard on us as well) the only thing at this point that will perk him up is when my 9yr old son comes home from school...it breaks my heart to see my pup like this...anyone have this happen and could shed some light on when the ache will stop for him??
Just like with people it is different for every dog. Younger dogs seem to bounce back quicker than the older ones but it is a process. Give him lots of loves and extra attention.
 

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Finn mourned Cheyenne for weeks. The first two weeks after she passed were hard; he laid in all her spots, was a bit grumpy, and was definately off his food. He didn't eat for the first 48 hours after she passed and we were trying to feed him bits of raw hamburger and steak. I ended up having to change his "routine" around to help him cope and he perked up pretty quick.

Two of our cats did the same thing. Molly passed from some sort of intestinal cancer and Hallie followed about 10 days after. Hallie never perked up after we brought the empty kennel home and just kind of faded away.
 

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Thanx, so sad seeing a pup like this...I have been spoiling him more to help us as well, sometimes I wonder what if we never got him in Dec, and niko passed and we had nothing, having Saber has helped us cope and my 9yr old, its like God knew something was going to happen :(
 

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I know Raina grieved when Pyrate left us last May. She was most definitely depressed. Didn't want to play, train, or go for walks, wouldn't touch any of the toys she had shared with Pyrate and was off her feed for weeks. I even bought her new toys to get her interested and took her on a 3000 + mile trip with just me and her in a van together visiting family. She only recently, in the last two months started to play with the toys she shared with Pyrate. It took her a long time to act "normal" again and I'm sure part of it was my grief over losing Pyrate, my heart dog, but I love Raina too and didn't want her to suffer so I did everything I could to get her back to normal. New toys, new places and people to meet, road trips, changed her training treats and routine. The changes helped me a little too. Every dog will grieve in their own way the same way people do. But it's never easy. My only comfort is knowing I will meet all my loved pets again on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.
 

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With my previous GSD, she did not have a companion - dog or cat, so I am not familiar with a dogs mourning.

We recently lost our very much loved cat of 14 years, Harry and Lola have grown up with him - our cat was the alpha of the pack and both Harry and Lola were mesmerized by him, they both wanted to be near him, please him and protect him, especially Harry, the youngest of the lot, he would often stop Lola from being near the cat.

We found Jack dead in our next door neighbours property, they weren't home at the time, but it is strange how he died. He was kind of flat on his tummy, with his back legs straight out, at first I thought he has been run over, but when we buried him, I noticed all his claws had been ripped out and there seemed to be tree bark or dirt in between his toes, so I assume something frightened him to the point where he scrambled up a tree so fast losing his claws in the process and falling. There were no puncture wounds on his body just blood in and around his mouth and on one paw. This says to me he died from a blunt force trauma, which was probably falling out of the tree. Poor Jack, I am so upset and angry at the way he died, thought he would get to about 20, he was a tough cat, when he was younger he used to follow us when we walked our son to school, he would always stop at a particular tree and wait for me to come back - was like a dog following us LOL and sometimes my son used to see him at the back of the school sports field just watching!

We let Harry and Lola see Jack's body, it was interesting as Harry immediately started grooming him all over his body. Lola tried to wake him up with her paw. They knew something was not right with him. They watched us bury him in our back yard. They keep looking for him, in all his usual spots - they still go to the laundry where he slept, they keep going to the gate and fence waiting for him, last night I caught Lola sitting near the gate as though she was waiting for him to come home under it like he used to.

They can't get to the area we buried him, is in the pool area and fenced off, however they keep looking through the pool fence at where he is buried.

Lola seems ok, it was funny because the night we buried him, she came and sat next to me and started talking to me, she never does this and it was as though she was telling me something, wish I knew what.

Harry seems depressed, I am keeping his busy and to his routine.

What are other people's experience here?
 

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I have no doubt that companion animals grieve. I do have an interest in how their minds work due to the grieving process. I think I will start another thread on specifically the idea of letting them view the body of a deceased friend, as I have developed some ideas about it and am wondering about other people's thoughts.
 

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Last fall we lost two of our beloved cats. We own a small farm way out in the country and always keep a couple indoor/outdoor cats to help with the mice and vole population. A few years ago my husband suprized me with a gorgeous cat on my birthday. Mercy was such a gently, quirky, affectionate soul who loved everyone, especially our daughter. About 6 months after joining our family, Tabs, our newly rescued, super mouser barn cat finally gave birth to her kittens. We decided to keep two and found homes for the others. Jasper decided he was happier in the house with us, while his sister Opal preferred the liberty of outdoor life. At first Mercy was none too happy with the new "intruder" but over the course of a couple months they became inseparable. We were out one day tending to the garden when Mercy, who had ventured out to join us, chased a bird into the road and was hit by an oncoming car. We allowed Jasper to be present at her burial, but immediately afterwards, he refused to come inside despite all our efforts to persuade him. We finally relented and let him be. He cried and yowled almost solidly for the next 2 days, refusing food, not wanting to be held, etc... I went out on the 3rd morning to check on him to find he had passed away. Autopsy was inconclusive, didn't show any internal issues, poison or injury. All we could figure was heartbreak. It was devastating losing them.
 

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I didn't realize just how much a dog would mourn another. It has been a rough couple of weeks around our house with dogs mourning each other. We are about to have a baby and a friend of ours took our very hyper dog to a better home with space to run. She is a shorthair and our little dachshund went crazy when she left. We also still had our Shepherd when she left. He would look for her everytime that they would normally go outside. He just wanted his friend to play with and couldn't find her. On Friday, we took our GS to the vet because he was very ill. He ended up needing surgery to remove part of his small intestine. They thought he was doing better and then on Sunday, our vet called to say that she didn't think he was going to make it. We ended up not being able to bring home our GS as he passed just a few moments before we got to the vet clinic. We will be bringing him home, but our little dachshund is just completely lost now as both of his big friends are gone. He acts out by taking the trash out of the bag for us and burying it under our bed. He goes outside and just lays in the kennel where our GS was as well as the crate in our daughter's room. I didn't realize that dogs really do mourn just like humans. It is so sad to watch and I can barely comprehend the loss yet so I can't imagine how our other pets feel.
 
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