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My Pet Is Griefing Losing Her Best Friend!


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Any recommendations to aid a grieving 14 year old pug who just lost her lifelong friend? She won't eat, and just wants to sleep on his blanket. I have tried everything and am watching her waste away. It has been 6 days. I have not found my way to be able to find the right words to write a long story about anything right now. Just need some advice. Thank you Kathleen Carepug

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Dear Kathleen,

I'm so sorry to learn of the difficulties you're facing with your dog in the wake of her lifelong friend's death. I don't know if this friend was human or animal, but common sense tells us that, just as we form attachments to our companion animals, they form attachments to us and to each other as well. When dogs share their life with other animals in the same household, they often become inseparable -- sleeping together, playing together and following one another around most of the day. When death separates them, it's understandable that the animal left behind can become distressed. Although there are no scientific research studies in the literature about this, I can assure you that I've read, heard about and experienced myself many examples of animals reacting strongly to the death of their companions (human and animal) with symptoms of separation anxiety.

You say that your pug is "wasting away." I'm not sure if that means she is not eating and losing weight, but you may want to consult with her veterinarian about that. It's also possible that she is sensing the distress of other humans in the household and is reacting to any changes in routine that accompanied this loss. In other words, she may not be grieving the loss of her mate herself, but on some level she is aware that you are grieving a significant loss. She knows something is wrong, but she's not quite sure what, and she is reacting to your distress by refusing to eat or stick to her normal routines. Here are some suggestions that might help you to help reassure your dog:

- Keep your dog's daily routine as unchanged as you can, so it remains as predictable, familiar and consistent as possible.

- Stick to your dog's normal feeding routine. Even though you may be tempted to offer special treats at such a sad time, you don't want to reward any refusal to eat regular meals.

- If your dog seems to want it, give her extra attention, petting and affection, but try to do so when she is behaving in desirable ways (with toys, games and exercise). Again, you don't want to reinforce negative behavior, and you don't want to force yourself upon her. (Some animals who've always been friendly may behave in a hostile or aggressive way — another symptom of grief.)

- It may help to let her see and smell her deceased mate's "things" (toys, collar, dish, clothing or bedding, etc.). Some people recommend actually sitting down and "explaining" to the surviving animal what happened to their companion. Your dog won't understand every word, but your gentle touch and the soothing tone of your voice will provide some comfort.

You might also find the articles below helpful. (Note that to read the ones on PetPlace, you'll need to register on the site, but there is no charge to do so):

Do Dogs Have Feelings? http://www.petplace....ings/page1.aspx

Can You Explain a Pet's Death to Another Pet? http://www.petplace....-pet/page1.aspx

Dealing with Grief in a Pack http://www.cesarsway...ling-with-Grief

Since I am a grief counselor and not an expert in animal behavior, I want to suggest that you also consider consulting someone in that particular field. See, for example, some of the sites listed on the Animal behavior Specialists and Animal Communicators pages on my Grief Healing Web site.

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I'm sorry for what you and your pug are going through. I don't have much to add to Marty's response, but I do encourage you to ask your vet about it asap. Is the "friend" a person or another dog? When my husband passed away, my dog, Lucky, grieved by acting out. It helped to give her special attention, but she still had to do her grief. Have you tried doing special things he liked before, like taking him for a ride or to a dog park? Have you tried giving him special treats/foods he used to love? Six days is a long time for them to not eat.

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