Parting Is Such Sorrow – How Our Dogs Grieve

SHUG Adopter Beth’s senior Whippet, Henry, lost his battle with cancer recently, leaving behind Jake, the Whippet, and Sophie, the Galgo. When she came home from the vet without Henry, Jake and Sophie didn’t do their usual happy dance at the door. They sniffed Henry’s collar and leash and then just stood there, frozen in place. Those of us who have lost a member of our pack might recognize their response.

henryBoth wandered around the house aimlessly for the next day or so, and stared at doors. Jake wouldn’t eat. Even after he started eating, he wouldn’t drink.

This prompted Beth to ask fellow SHUG supporters – How does your dog exhibit grief and what do you do about it?  This is some of what she was told:

Bonnie -- A few years ago, my pack of four was unexpectedly reduced to my two girls – a Lurcher and a Greyhound. The girls were devastated. They moped around and were listless for two months until we decided to add another Greyhound – then both girls perked up.  Because of that experience, we had our vet come to our home when it was time for one to say good-bye. That way, the remaining dogs not only have a chance to say good-bye if they want to, they watched the process, and got closure. We always give them a few minutes to sniff the dog that has passed so they know what has happened. The dogs do understand death and deal with it better than a disappearance.

Elise -- I had two siblings. When we lost Max, sister Luna didn't eat for about a week. When she finally started eating again, she would leave a small bit of kibble in her dish -- just as she had throughout their life together as her gesture of being alpha and eating first. Max would patiently wait for her to finish and then eat her little remaining kibble first before eating his bowl. It broke my heart that Luna continued to do that for months after he was gone.

Helen -- I had a Whippet stop drinking water when I had to put down my Ridgeback. They had been together for 10 years. My vet told me it was absolutely grief and that my dogs spent more time together than they did with me, and of course he was missing his buddy. Then he told me if I could, the best thing would be to get another dog. So I got my Whippet his own Whippet.

Elizabeth -- I was already going through the process to adopt a new dog for my old lady Greyhound as her littermate wasn't doing well. I thought I had some time when I lost him suddenly. My girl wouldn't move for two days. My Greyhound group brought Anna to my house. My girl immediately came back to life. Sometimes it doesn't matter if we are ready. We have to do what is right for the dogs left behind.

Susan -- Dancer was a tripod and after she passed Toshii walked like her for three weeks. They had not even been that close. When we knew Tango was going to leave us, we had him go to the bridge from home. The three girls all came in to sniff him before and after, and they had no grief whatsoever.

Kathy -- Given the chance, it is important to let them get their sniffs in. A longtime friend told me a remedy that she has used with her Greyhounds and I have incorporated into my family as well. If the dog passes away at home, they each get their smell time. However, if the dog has to be euthanized at the vet’s, I always bring their collar and blanket home and place it on one of the dog beds. They will each go and lay on top of it at their own pace. This seems to help them find closure and then they can move on.

Wendy -- When I had to put down my Greyhound/lab mix my little fluff terrier stayed home. When I came back she was very confused --searching the house and sighing heavily. This went on for a few days. She also acted leery of me. Normally a clingy dog, this went on for about a week.

sophieandjake2According to Beth, both of her dogs are back in their usual good spirits, although Jake is more clingy now. “I miss my grumpy old man more than words can say,” she said. “He was my heart dog and constant companion for 12 years. But these two are helping me get through the loss.”

For anyone who has ever had a dog, there is little doubt they feel joy – and grief. Tell us about your experience in the comments below.


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7 thoughts on “Parting Is Such Sorrow – How Our Dogs Grieve
  1. I had read it was easier on dogs to see the body of the euthanize dog, so when it came time to let my Whippet Lore go I took all 3 dogs with me to the vet. This totally traumatized them. I won’t do this again. It seemed in the past easier for them, just not to have the other dog come home. I always have 3 dogs of varying ages. Right now my 3 Whippets are 12 & 6 years and 11 months old.

  2. When my young Greyhound named Kit died, it not only broke my heart but the heart of our sweet Greyhound boy, Sachi. She had became desparately ill and required a feeding tube, i.v. meds and intense care. He never failed to be right there with me to check on her. He was so gentle, so concerned. Her death was quite a blow to him. He was pining away for her. He stopped eating altogether. He would lay on the bed where she always napped. He would lay in the sun, in the yard where she had lain. He refused treats. Even car rides failed to bring him to life again. He was utterly grief stricken. I honestly felt as if we were losing him.

    I called my vet whose practice at the time was predominantly Greyhounds. She had two females in need of their forever homes. To say that I was not ready would be an understatement. Kit was my heart dog. We took Sachi to meet the girls. One was being fostered in a home with 4 other Greyhounds. You should have seen Sachi. The transformation was miraculous and instant when he saw all those hounds! He played with them, drank out of their water bowls, made himself right at home on the couch. It was as if a window was flung open and all his grief flew out.

    Our Sachi was saved. We adopted both of the girls.

  3. Aw, Nan, what a wonderful story. And I love how you worded the part about the window being flung open!
    Bless beautiful, gentle Sachi, and how wonderful that you were able to rehome TWO girls! Just lovely :o)
    One of my Lurcher girls Orla, was very low when we had to have my 13year old English Bull Terrier to sleep. Even when he was poorly, all 3 girls were aware that something was wrong. But Orla was the most lost without him. The vets came to the house, even.though they advised against bringing him home, which I found upsetting. I told them, even if i have to call you out within half an hour if being home, that us what will happen..I truly believe it was much better for all of us, including Moley who was my old boy, that everyone was there, together at home.
    But Orla lost her mojo for about a year, we just had to wait for her to get it back. She was eating and drinking fine, just not her usual clownish goofing about. She had be besotted with Mole from when she met him when she was an 8 week.old pup.

  4. Norm, yep, Norm, was my first, and a big, beautiful fawn boy. Lucy was my second and was devoted to Norm, followed him everywhere, and had finally found her forever home after being shuffled and rehired two or three times. Norm was diagnosed with spleenetic cancer and given 6-8 weeks. Lucy was faithful to the end. I should have had the vet come to the house, but took him in. Lucy was heartbroken. She was never the same dog, other things in life happened, and I believe she just eventually passed from a broken heart. Lessons learned, these are beautiful, sensitive dogs, who know us as well, if not better than we know them.

  5. I still have a hard time talking about my Greyhounds that crossed. Just know I still miss them, still cry for them. Thankfully now I can remember the funny, loving memories they left me.
    For SOPHIA, GRISSOM, RILEY AND MAXIMUS. I will see you again.

  6. We needed to return our 2nd greyhound to his adoptive place after his 3rd bite. It was always me, but my family decided this was it. Our 1st greyhound is mopping about, not her usual self. I spend as much time as she wants with her. We are both so sad. Want to get another but not sure how soon. Heartbroken for both my buddies. Any advice?