There’s no denying that dogs have earned their time-honored title as “humans’ best friend.” Our committed canines remain faithfully by our side through tough times, stressful situations, even bad behavior.
But can dogs actually grieve? When a human owner passes on, can mournful canines access this complex depth of feeling?
Behavioral scientists generally agree that under these circumstances, our pets can feel sad, lonely, dejected, even inconsolable.
But many experts also point out that dogs don’t necessarily comprehend and/or share the opinion of some humans that death is absolutely permanent.
For this reason, notes psychology professor Stanley Coren in an article posted on Psychology Today, crestfallen canines facing an owner’s death may be displaying something many humans do not.
Specifically, our dogs may be filled with hope at the eventual possibility of a joyous reunion.
That certainly seems to be the case with one devoted 5-year-old Chihuahua mix named Deta. Sadly, her 86-year-old owner died back in September.
“Deta and my mother were inseparable,” notes the woman’s daughter, Theresa Morini. “Wherever my mother went, Deta followed.”
Morini told news outlets that when her mother was recently being treated in an Albany, New York, hospital for congestive heart failure, Deta couldn’t bear to be away from her loving owner.
So the family secretly smuggled the pup inside for comforting visits.
Now, Morini and her husband Mike regularly take Deta to the woman’s gravesite in nearby Amsterdam City. And heartbreakingly, the dog often refuses to leave.
Each time they arrive, Deta rushes past all the other graves. The determined dog makes a beeline for the marker denoting the final resting place of the master she’s always adored.
Then, like any good pooch, she sits — and she stays. Even when Morini calls her back to the car repeatedly, Deta is resolute that she’s right where she belongs.
Sometimes the steadfast pup will reluctantly heed those repetitive requests.
But when Morini turns around, Deta has already scrambled back to where she believes her owner is quietly waiting.
“Is my mother’s spirit still here?” ponders Morini. She concedes there’s no way to be sure — but expresses certainty that “it does bring me comfort, and I think it brings [Deta] comfort too.”
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