Those who have never had one of their own can find it hard to understand the very real feeling of friendship you experience with your dog.
You put time and effort into taking them for long walks and keeping them well fed and comfortable. And in return they will devote themselves to you with all their heart.
Many of us can relate to the comfort a dog’s watchful, protective gaze can bring during the tougher times in life.
And when the time comes for them to bound off to the great park in the sky, the sense of loss can be genuinely profound. Some people even grieve more deeply than they would for a friend or a relative…
Indeed, research has shown how grieving for a pet is very much comparable to grieving for a human loved one. Even though many pet owners may feel surprised and even guilty about this revelation.
After all, the death of a pet can often be trivialised by society and the painful aftermath left unrecognised.
Deirdre K. Petrich from The Graduate Faculty of The University of Akron, made the following conclusion in her PhD thesis Pet Bereavement and Families: A Qualitative View:
As clinicians who work with both individuals and families it is essential that we better understand the role that pets play in the clients’ lives that we treat. It may be very easy to overlook a pet and miscalculate their role in a family as being remote or insignificant.
When a pet dies and a therapist does not acknowledge the pet or the loss, it may further exacerbate the feeling of shame that pet owners already feel for this unique,
possibly disenfranchised grief they feel when their pet passes away.
Remind yourself what beautiful, pure creatures dogs are below:
Speaking with Popular Science, University of Colorado-Boulder sociologist Leslie Irvine emphasised how our relationships with our animal companions have changed significantly over the last hundred years; with pets now being regarded as more like family members, who actively shape our lives.
A lot of people who have pets wake up at a certain time, not because of any alarm clock or any need of their own but because their dog needs a walk.
Just as other humans participate in becoming family by doing these practices—getting up together, eating together, navigating the bathroom times, and all that—so do animals become part of the rituals that make family.
Irvine also explained how pet owners can idealize their dogs in a way they wouldn’t necessarily with their human friends:
We idealize animals, especially dogs. We create them as these almost angelic characters, so we have this idea of unconditional love for us.
For many dog lovers, our fur babies are already hairy angels on earth. They never try to belittle or bully us. They never let us down or break our hearts. We are their world and they make ours so much more joyful.
Now, excuse me while I go give my perfect dog/best friend a big cuddle…
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.