This is the dog!

Perhaps the loss of a loved dog explains so much!

The posts for the last two days have carried separate and very different stories of terrible cruelty to dogs, the second one involving terrible cruelty to a dog and a bull! As a tradition! Ouch!!

Readers of this place know what they feel about dogs. It is felt deep within their hearts. Those feelings are poured out when, either from me or someone else, there’s a post lamenting the loss of their dog.

Just as a tiny example of that love we all have for our dogs, here’s a response from Marina Kanavaki and, trust me, Marina is far from being alone in this regard.

Oh, no, Paul!!! I’m so sorry my friend! It is hard to believe and not so long ago, Casey. I know words can’t take away the pain but you have my thoughts and I’m sending you both my love and hugs.

So a recent essay published on The Conversation site is a must to share with you today. As usual, it is republished within the terms of The Conversation.

ooOOoo

Why losing a dog can be harder than losing a relative or friend

March 9, 2017
Frank T. McAndrew,   Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology, Knox College.

Recently, my wife and I went through one of the more excruciating experiences of our lives – the euthanasia of our beloved dog, Murphy. I remember making eye contact with Murphy moments before she took her last breath – she flashed me a look that was an endearing blend of confusion and the reassurance that everyone was ok because we were both by her side.

When people who have never had a dog see their dog-owning friends mourn the loss of a pet, they probably think it’s all a bit of an overreaction; after all, it’s “just a dog.”

However, those who have loved a dog know the truth: Your own pet is never “just a dog.”

Many times, I’ve had friends guiltily confide to me that they grieved more over the loss of a dog than over the loss of friends or relatives. Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Unfortunately, there’s little in our cultural playbook – no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service – to help us get through the loss of a pet, which can make us feel more than a bit embarrassed to show too much public grief over our dead dogs.

Perhaps if people realized just how strong and intense the bond is between people and their dogs, such grief would become more widely accepted. This would greatly help dog owners to integrate the death into their lives and help them move forward.

An interspecies bond like no other

What is it about dogs, exactly, that make humans bond so closely with them?

For starters, dogs have had to adapt to living with humans over the past 10,000 years. And they’ve done it very well: They’re the only animal to have evolved specifically to be our companions and friends. Anthropologist Brian Hare has developed the “Domestication Hypothesis” to explain how dogs morphed from their grey wolf ancestors into the socially skilled animals that we now interact with in very much the same way as we interact with other people.

Perhaps one reason our relationships with dogs can be even more satisfying than our human relationships is that dogs provide us with such unconditional, uncritical positive feedback. (As the old saying goes, “May I become the kind of person that my dog thinks I already am.”)

This is no accident. They have been selectively bred through generations to pay attention to people, and MRI scans show that dog brains respond to praise from their owners just as strongly as they do to food (and for some dogs, praise is an even more effective incentive than food). Dogs recognize people and can learn to interpret human emotional states from facial expression alone. Scientific studies also indicate that dogs can understand human intentions, try to help their owners and even avoid people who don’t cooperate with their owners or treat them well.

Not surprisingly, humans respond positively to such unrequited affection, assistance and loyalty. Just looking at dogs can make people smile. Dog owners score higher on measures of well-being and they are happier, on average, than people who own cats or no pets at all.

Like a member of the family

Our strong attachment to dogs was subtly revealed in a recent study of “misnaming.” Misnaming happens when you call someone by the wrong name, like when parents mistakenly calls one of their kids by a sibling’s name. It turns out that the name of the family dog also gets confused with human family members, indicating that the dog’s name is being pulled from the same cognitive pool that contains other members of the family. (Curiously, the same thing rarely happens with cat names.)

It’s no wonder dog owners miss them so much when they’re gone.

Psychologist Julie Axelrod has pointed out that the loss of a dog is so painful because owners aren’t just losing the pet. It could mean the loss of a source of unconditional love, a primary companion who provides security and comfort, and maybe even a protégé that’s been mentored like a child.

The loss of a dog can also seriously disrupt an owner’s daily routine more profoundly than the loss of most friends and relatives. For owners, their daily schedules – even their vacation plans – can revolve around the needs of their pets. Changes in lifestyle and routine are some of the primary sources of stress.

According to a recent survey, many bereaved pet owners will even mistakenly interpret ambiguous sights and sounds as the movements, pants and whimpers of the deceased pet. This is most likely to happen shortly after the death of the pet, especially among owners who had very high levels of attachment to their pets.

While the death of a dog is horrible, dog owners have become so accustomed to the reassuring and nonjudgmental presence of their canine companions that, more often than not, they’ll eventually get a new one.

So yes, I miss my dog. But I’m sure that I’ll be putting myself through this ordeal again in the years to come.

ooOOoo

Just let the messages of this essay reverberate around your heart. I’ll say no more!

29 thoughts on “This is the dog!

  1. That’s absolutely fascinating. Great link Paul.

    I still grieve for Sweet Pippa after nearly two years. It takes years to get over the deaths of our dogs. Goodness knows how you and Jeannie are managing atm.

    Their understanding is just amazing. Of words, looks, gestures. And their patience and tolerance too. Why can’t we be more like them?

    Although I do wish they wouldn’t chase cats!

  2. Yes, our relationship to our canine counterpart is one of symbiotic proportions. We need each other, and are complete by that relationship of unconditional love and forgiveness. The telepathic communication and deep inner connection is the lasting bond which continues for all time.

  3. I still feel sadness at the loss of my Abby & my Sophie. It was a very tough time coming on the heels of losing my Mother.
    Yes, grieving for a pet is comparable to grieving for a human. This was a wonderful article.

  4. The love we share with them is so pure and true that the bonds are incredibly strong. 18 months after losing our girl, I still have fresh water for her in her bowl. The love for her we now share with our new member and although I never thought we could love so strongly, we do and more! So here’s another lesson learned from them: love is limitless. Still, words are too poor…

    1. I so echo your sentiments here Marina, Love is Limitless, and the love we feel for our four-legged family will last an eternity..
      Paul a great article share.. and still sending you both my love..
      ❤ Sue

  5. It’s just coming up to 6am. Jean and I have just woken up. Jean is about to go through to the kitchen and I have turned on my iPad and just read your comments.

    I will respond to each of them shortly but had to tell you that your precious words shared in this place have brought tears to my eyes. And that’s before I have read them out to Jeannie!

    Thank you.

  6. I love this article. I’m just now going through a separation from my service dog that I was training. Turned out he lashes out at people and he won’t be able to get certified, after 3 months of day in and out training. If I didn’t need a service dog for my PTSD then I wouldn’t give him up. But thats not the case and now I have to give him up for adoption so I can find a different dog that will be more submissive. I love Tank so much! It feels like I’m putting my own flesh and blood up for adoption, it hurts so bad sometimes that I just curl up with him and hold him because I never wanted him to leave.

    1. Firstly, a very warm welcome to this place.

      Secondly, thank you sharing what must be an agonizing situation.

      Finally, do email the details of Tank plus a couple of pictures and I will run it as a post.

      So sorry to hear that about Tank.

  7. I have carried my dogs ashes with me through several moves hoping to find my final home. I may actually spread them this year. I have her paw print and a lock of her hair. I send sympathy cards to friends who have lost a cherished pet. I don’t understand the mind or heart of people who don’t cherish their animals. I can’t be around them. This was a wonderful post on the subject.

      1. Thank you. She was originally my mother’s dog and she missed my mother always. Even though I had her 10 of her 11 years. Funny how that is. They remember.

  8. Your blog posting really grabbed my attention. My own experiences with pet loss, especially dogs has effected the very fiber of my being. Last year losing my dog Ruby to a heart defect really blew me out of the water ….so to speak. It hurts to lose a pet before they grow old.
    For me, it hurts more because you get an extra loss of the time you didn’t get. Plus the added what if factor. …what if I had done this or that…..would I then get to keep my dog longer….
    Losing a dog to me is harder in the sense I see them every day. What I do for the day revolves around that dog. It is how I am.
    As the years have gone on….I can honestly say I bond even more with each dog. I think with my training them it brings a closer level of friendship between the dog and I. I know that us the case with my current dog Annie. Training Annie has opened a whole different level of friendship with her and I. I think because I constantly communicate with her when we go for walks. …something I did with my German Shepherds (the constant communication-they thrived and learned better that way when they were on the leash) . Annie is a lab, but she is a really smart, yet the most stubborn dog I have ever met. Yes Annie is so stubborn, she could put a mule to shame.

    My Mom has experienced pet loss of her own. To which she will flat out admit that it hurt her emotionally so much, that she’s not sure she could own another dog. For her to admit that speaks volumes on so many levels.

    My Mom knows I put my pets before myself. As well as how much it hurt each time I experienced a loss. Yet when she experienced this loss it really threw her for a loop. Its a hard blow to take.

    It’s not like a regular thing in life that knocks you down. Or hits you so hard it feels like all the air has been taken from you. It is a deeper hurt, a much harder blow to come back from. Or move forward from…..its like you are stuck unable to fix, something you know you can’t fix.

    Yet for me, the love a dog gives you/me is worth the heartache of the loss. Because it really shows the true measure of how much they mean to me.

    1. What you have written displays so beautifully, so clearly, what it means to have a dog or two in our lives. I am minded to turn your reply into a self-contained post.

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