Pets and Grief: What You Can Do to Help A Grieving Pet

     If you or someone you know has recently suffered the loss of a loved one, you know that grief support from friends and relatives can be a great comfort at times. Did you know that animals grieve, too?  Researchers in the fields of anthropology and animal behavior have been studying populations of both wild and domestic animals for some time to establish guidelines for understanding grief in animals. It appears that animals are like people in many ways, in that their attachments to each other and to human companions vary as does their visible response to loss. As a hospice chaplain and veterinarian, I have observed dogs and cats demonstrating a number of unusual behaviors related to grief and heard many stories from others about a pet's grief experience. While no two pets are exactly alike, they do seem to share some behaviors in common when confronted by the loss of a beloved owner.

     A pet may spend time searching the home, looking for the owner. Dogs may whine and run from room to room, or look out the window or watch the door in anticipation of the lost owner's return. They may stop eating for a time or turn to other family members for frequent comfort or care. Sleep patterns may be disrupted and/or the dog may be hypersensitive to sudden noises. Cats may vocalize frequently, stop eating or stay hidden for extended periods of time.

    What are some ways to offer support when a pet is grieving? I advise family members to try to keep the dog or cat's routine as close to normal as possible. Keep food bowls and bedding in the same place whenever possible or take them to the new home. Add an article of clothing worn by the owner to the pet's bed. The scent will provide comfort and fade with time. For dogs, increase their exercise by taking them for a walk in a new place or taking them for car rides if they enjoy them. Above all, pay attention to their needs and spend time with them as you grieve. The care you give them will be returned to you many times over.

Delana Taylor McNac, Owner/Manager

Dogville Daycare & Boarding

dogville@cox.net 

 

     The Caregiver Support Network of Oklahoma (CSN-O) offers personal support and information to individuals and their families who are caring for their loved ones.  The network provides help with counseling and guidance for patients, caregivers, and families.  Assistance with accessing useful resources, as well as education and planning for current and future needs are offered.  CSN-O conducts informational sessions monthly at different locations in the community.  The Network will be at Clarehouse in the upstairs meeting room on May 31, 2014, during our annual Open House.  Information will be available from LIFE Senior Services, The Tristesse Grief Center, INCOG Area Agency on Aging, The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges, OU Center for Palliative Care, and Clarehouse.  Anyone needing information is encouraged to attend or contact CSN-O at 918-619-4127 or through Facebook at www.facebook.com/CSNofO.  

  

 "A utopian notion I have is of people being born into the welcoming arms of community and dying from the reluctant arms of community. While I live and practice in the real world, my hospice experience over the years makes me believe that through professional commitment and skilled volunteerism we can realize that dream." 

Quote by Dr. Ira Byock, Palliative Medicine Physician

Found on his website www.dyingwell.org

 

     

    At Clarehouse, we constantly strive to understand the impact we make in the community and how we can maximize our effectiveness. Through this assessment, we see a trend from last year continuing into 2014. Shorter stays, with a corresponding increase in admissions caused an all-time high in the number of deaths occurring at Clarehouse last month. 40 individuals died in our home in March, with stays ranging less than one hour to 39 days, and an average of 6 days. This trend concerns us because our gift of care is offered for those with weeks to a month life expectancy, yet often people are only here for hours or days. We believe the support we offer is helpful, even life-changing, sooner rather than later.

    Clarehouse referrals, and hospice referrals in general, need to be considered earlier in the disease process for terminally ill people. Quality of life can be greatly enhanced by the expert symptom management we offer. The intense stress of caregiving can be relieved by the extended family we provide. The most frequent comment we hear from families who experience a short stay is "Oh, I wish we had had more time here!" You can help us spread the word - share the mission of Clarehouse with those you know. Encourage them to come for a tour and get to know us before they need us, so that when the time comes, we are a comfortable, trusted option. Few of us like to ask for help, but this help, offered freely, can be transforming. 

 

                                      Kelley Scott, Executive Director

 

    

   


 

 

 
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