Is it wise to let my dogs see our other dog after we put him down?
Answered by Cynthia Fell on Quora…
I took our little poodle, brain-damaged Nancy, to the vet for one of her regular injections for her kidneys, which were failing. She was 13 and had spent the previous day in my arms, too tired to do anything. I knew really that this was probably her last journey. The vet, whom we had known for 30 years and whom I trusted said, “Cynthia, she’s just becoming a little pincushion and I think the time has come.” Stoically, I agreed.
Dried eyed and telling myself it was better for Nancy, I carried her little body out to the car and placed her on the front seat intending to cover her with a blanket. This I was prevented from doing by Jaffa, one of our Standard Poodles, who had decided to come with us. Pulling against her seatbelt, she leant over the back seat and sniffed at Nancy. She then licked Nancy’s face, put her own head back and howled and howled and howled. Just like a wolf howling at the moon. That did it! I burst into tears and, amazingly, Jaffa leaned over again and licked me! She knew all right that the bewildered little girl she had shared her bed with and kept an eye on for the past seven years, had gone. So yes, I think it is wise to let dogs see that a pack member has died. Some will react, and perhaps show grief, some will not.
Answered by a pet cremetorian…
When we care for a pet that has passed, we always ask the owners if they have anyone else still at home. From experience with our own pets, we know that animals can grieve deeply at the loss of a friend. Some people tell us that they have shown the body of one pet to another, and seen no response. Others say the pet has shied away from the body.
Two really important things to remember:
- Dogs and cats both are far more sensitive to smell than humans are. When you bring your pet’s body back from the vet, the body carries not only the scents of their own stress (& yours) at being in that facility, but also all the smells of meds, disinfectants, pet sickness, and human stress that have been there. It can be a lot for your pets to process.
- Even if your pet has seen the body of its companion, he still has his own grief to deal with. Animals grieve. Some can grieve to the point where they make themselves ill. Knowing that someone you love is dead doesn’t make the absence easier for humans, and it doesn’t help an animal who has lost someone to whom they are bonded.