Do pets get depressed when their owner dies?
My mom passed away in April but I was not around to see our dog’s reaction as it was left home alone for a month. But I should think that Suzie was sad and traumatized.
Jimmy and May — my mom’s next door neighbours – were most kind as to pop over to feed Suzie daily while my brother also dropped in on and off to clear our mom’s stuff.
My friend who paid a few visits to replenish the stock of dog food reported that Suzie appeared listless which had me worried.
At that time, the KL condo I was living in did not allow pets. Therefore I had to frantically look for a house to rent so that I could bring Suzie from Penang as soon as possible.
Perhaps cats and dogs may not comprehend the concept of death but I’m sure they know to miss their caregiver. Suzie was very attached to my mom and would sit beside my mom’s chair when she was watching TV as well as sleep outside her bedroom door at night.
Animals understand words
Lucky for us, Suzie has been used to travelling so she did not get car sick in the journey from Penang to PJ although we had to stop several times for her to stretch her legs and get some air.
If you’re wondering why I consented to the urgent displacement and stressful disruption of moving for the sake of the dog, the answer is that I don’t see her as just an animal. After all, we have a history together — she used to sleep beside my pillow when she was a puppy (then she got too big and in the tussle for bed space, I won).
She has her own mind and a personality. Her vocabulary includes “Inside” as when my mom called her in from the garden or nowadays when I send her in so that she doesn’t harass the pizza delivery man. (Suzie has always had the run of the house and never been chained or caged.)
Other words that she knows are “Kiss”, “Kai-kai” (going out) and “Wait!” which she has to do when we are on walks as she is more energetic than me even though she is older. (She’s about 60 in dog years, ref. conversion calculator here.)
A dog and her person
She is human intuitive but at the same time retains her animal instincts. On one occasion when I took her jungle trekking, I tripped over a tree root and fell. As if she sensed my distress, Suzie immediately nuzzled up to lick my face.
However, in other respects, her behaviour is still doggish, like when given a treat which she is supposed to chew, she’d instead take it out to the garden to bury.
Today Suzie has transferred to me the routine she used to share with my mom. When I’m having my meals, she would sit under the dining table. As I’m typing this, Suzie is lying under the desk.
Recalling the famous line from the movie Titanic, “you jump, I jump”, Suzie wakes up when I wake up, and would be waiting at the foot of the stairs for me as soon as she hears me stir from bed. And when I come home, she greets me at the door with tail wagging and grinning from ear to ear.
One shouldn’t find it too hard to believe that a dog or cat can smile. After all they show emotions in so many other ways such as barking, whining, yelping, meowing, purring or the angry cat swishing its tail. So why not facial expressions too?
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