In a recent Washington Post article, journalist Joe Yonan discusses the heart-wrenching experience of losing his beloved Doberman Pinscher Red and how the grieving process was eerily similar (even worse) to when he lost his father and beloved sister. He asks the question – “How could the death of a canine possibly hurt as much as that of a family member?”
Yonan cites several journal articles written and studies conducted on the human-animal bond that basically legitimize his claim above. One of Yonan’s sources offers a simple answer: Pets give us constant companionship and are totally dependent on us for their entire life, so it is understandable that the grief a pet owner feels toward a lost pet would be incredibly intense.
Yonan realized that the void his pet left in his life was so significant because it was not only a void in body, but a total transformation of the traditional rituals he had in life. His day always started with his dog licking his face as he put on his shoes and ended, I assume with the dog by his side. And then you have the contant walks, feedings, play time, and simple companionship taking up the middle. Without all that to guide his day, he felt lost.
As someone who has lost a pet, I can absolutely sympathize with Yonan and his loss of Red. When my dog Sophie passed away, it was months before I stopped hearing her walking around the house. I swear I would hear her tags click as she walked around or her toenails tap on the hardwood floor. I would turn, expecting her to be there, and she wasn’t. It was a really odd feeling.
I believe the loss of a pet can be as intense as the loss of a family member – especially depending on how close you were to that specific family member. What are your thoughts – do you feel these two losses should be considered equal?
Heather Kalinowski lives in the Seattle area with her husband, newborn son, and two rescued pups – an Italian Greyhound named Ava and a Spaniel mix named Jackson. She enjoys reading, writing, spending time with her family, and volunteering with Italian Greyhound Rescue.