Animals grieve. Some researchers believe animals do not experience emotions. The tide is turning, however. Studies conducted by evolutionary and cognitive biologists indicate animals experience deep emotional lives.
When Harley crossed the Rainbow Bridge, we brought her home and let the other dogs say their until we meet again’s. We hadn’t thought much about them grieving or experiencing depression after Harley’s death until our vet called to express her condolences.
Chardonnay and Harley were sisters. When the vet called, she said to watch Chardonnay closely as animals often experience a period of depression following the death of another pet, but if the grieving went on too long, or Chardonnay was losing too much weight, to bring her in. Sammy, our rescue Maltipoo, grieved too, just differently from Chardonnay.
Pre-COVID, I worked outside the home, and after a couple of days off, I returned to work. When I was home, Chardonnay was always by my side. She wasn’t interested in food, neither was I. After work, we sat on the sofa as I stroked her silky fur. Chardonnay and I grieved together.
Grief is one of those things we must go through in life – there is no way around it. No one likes to grieve. It’s painful physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but it is the circle of life. When the circle of life is broken suddenly or is out of sequence, grief seems more acute. And so it was for us with Harley.
Eventually, acute grief subsides and we learn to make our way through the world without a beloved pet by our side. Tasia joined the family, not as a replacement for Harley, but as an addition. Chardonnay and Sammy adapted. Rowdie joined a bit later, then Kaiah.
Tasia is our highly sensitive Yorkie. Her emotional waters run deep. Last year, Sammy crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He was as loveable as they come. The shelter estimated him at 5 years old when we got him, so he was at least 12 when he crossed over. When Sammy left us, Tasia grieved more deeply than the others. She didn’t eat for a few days and searched for Sammy in his usual places throughout the house. It was difficult for us to witness her grief. She seemed lost without Sammy nearby. Occasionally, they had played together, but mostly he was in her life, a constant she had relied on to be there until he wasn’t.
Now, Rowdie has joined Harley and Sammy in the valley of the Rainbow Bridge. And, here we are swept up in grief yet again. It never gets easier. Rowdie was surrounded by his human and furry family when he crossed over, unlike Harley who died alone at the hands of a negligent groomer. Unlike Sammy, who in the midst of COVID, breathed his last in the back seat of my daughter’s car at the vet’s office while my daughter and I cried into his soft fur. Once, again Tasia is grieving. She didn’t eat for a few days. She nibbles here and there now, but her grief is obvious as she naps in Rowdie’s bed under the chair in my home office. At night, she often sleeps tucked up against my tummy – the spot Rowdie had chosen during the last few years of his life.
After Rowdie’s ashes were returned to us, we placed his ashes in a small turquoise ceramic urn along with a piece of his blanket and a lock of hair. We held the urn in front of Chardonnay, Kaiah, and Tasia, one by one. Char and Kaiah smelled the little urn and looked up into our eyes. They knew. Tasia smelled the little urn and slowly began licking it. In life, Tasia frequently licked Rowdie’s face as if kissing him. Now, as Rowdie’s ashes lay in the turquoise urn, Tasia kissed her elderly friend one last time.
Animals do indeed mourn the loss of furry friends or human companions. Loss is loss…..