Last week I had a unique and undeniable experience with pet grief. From the moment I entered the home to receive the deceased pet, the companion pet nuzzled me, not in a threatening “this is my territory” kind of way, but in an anxious, “will you take care of my friend” way. As I spoke to the family about the arrangements, he sat beside me, and put his paw on my leg, as if to let me know that he was a part of the conversation.
When it was time for me to take his friend, he positioned himself between me and the body and looked at me as if to say, “be gentle with my friend.” The family noticed his behavior and said he had never reacted like this before to a stranger in their home.
Families frequently ask me if pets grieve. They are just as individual in their responses to death as we are. Some people are stoic, some cry inconsolably. Pets are just as different in their responses. Some sit beside the deceased until they leave the home, other pets romp throught the house like nothing unusual has happened and some take a wide path to avoid the room where the deceased lays.