Just like humans, dogs feel the pain of the loss of a loved one. When my father passed away last November, I wasn’t the only one dealing with grief. Our family dog Colbie, a Scoodle (half Poodle, half Scottish Terrier), felt the loss in his own way.
There was not a day in the seven years we had Colbie that my dad did not spend outside with him. Whether taking Colbie on his daily walks at the local track, or gardening in the spring and summer, Colbie and my father, Gary, were always side-by-side.
Originally, Colbie was a surprise for my mother on my parent’s anniversary. I found Colbie, and my dad and I went and bought him and brought him home. My dad never was a fan of smaller dogs, but little by little, Colbie warmed my dad’s heart. It may sound cliche, but Colbie changed the man who was my dad. He became kinder. He became softer. He became a man who loved life more, and took the time to appreciate the small things.
My dad became ill in late October 2014. I spent every day until he passed away on Friday, November 14 in the hospital by his side. Although I never heard my father’s voice again, I know he heard mine everyday and night. He died peacefully, with his family by his side.
After the funeral and once life seemed to begin again, we noticed the Colbie was grieving for the loss of his best friend. He never left the front window. He was always looking for my dad to pull in the driveway in his blue Nissan Frontier. He slept in my dad’s bed every night. Like me, it was like he didn’t understand that dad was not going to be coming home.
Slowly, days turned into weeks, and now weeks into months. Colbie has returned to being more of himself. Returning to normalcy after such a whirlwind was an emotional roller coaster for all of us. There is not a single day that passes where I do not think about my dad. I know that Colbie remembers him sometimes, and I wish we could all have one last afternoon together.
Signs of dogs in a state or mourning are similar to what some humans experience. Signs may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Change in barking/quiet behavior
- Increase in sleep patterns
- Loss of interest in daily activities
If your dog appears to be grieving the loss of someone in the family, here are some tips to help him through the journey.
- Show your dog some patience. Just like humans, some dogs need time to grieve and adjust.
- Maintain a regular routine. If your dog is used to going on a particular walk daily, make sure to stick to it. Do not change the routine suddenly. The regularity will help your dog adjust to other changes.
- Set aside time to relax with your dog daily. Spend a few quiet minutes a day grooming your dog. This will help build your personal bond with the dog.
- Use positive reinforcement, but don’t spoil your dog. This may result in future problems.
Dogs are a part of the family, and they will experience a loss in their own way. Make sure not to neglect your dogs in their own time of need.