Have you ever wondered, do dogs grieve?
Have you seen the movie Hachi? If not, it’s a must-see. Just be sure you have lots of Kleenexes available! If you haven’t seen it, it is based on a true story starring Richard Gere.
It’s the story of an Akita in Japan that waited at the train station every day for his owner to come home from work on the train. One day the man didn’t return. Unknown to the dog, of course, his master had died before he could return. The dog spent the rest of his life at the train station loyally waiting for his master to return to him.
In Japan, they have erected a statue of the real Hachi whose name was actually Hachiko at the train station in honor of that dog. It’s a very moving story.
We’ve all seen many videos and pictures on the internet that seem to prove that dogs do indeed feel grief.
Do dogs grieve? What the experts say:
Barbara King, a professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, believes that thanks to thousands of years of companionship, humans, and dogs have grown quite in tune with each other. She is convinced that dogs (and cats) do feel deep grief.
Some dogs do and some don’t
Dr. King also says that just like people, dogs are individuals and respond differently to different situations. She thinks that whether a dog grieves or not depends on his or her life experiences, including how they were raised and what their people or animal housemates were like.
Does this mean that dogs understand death?
Stanly Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C says that for us to get an idea of what may be going on in a dog’s head when a loved one dies we can look at what goes on in the mind of a child in the two to five-year age range. These children do not understand that death is irreversible.
What should you do?
If your dog seems depressed after the loss of a person or pet that he/she was bonded to, the expert advice is to take them on a walk, play a game of fetch or take them to the dog park. They say to distract the dog with things that they enjoy until enough time has passed that he/she is not looking around every corner for the one that is now absent. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few months before the dog’s depression begins to lift.
Yes, there is sorrow, but perhaps something more positive than grief. Because dogs do not have the knowledge that death is forever, at least there is the option to hope – a hope that their loved one might come back again. That explains why poor Hachi waited the rest of his life for his owner to return.