We all love our dogs and we treat them as family members. Nothing can prepare us for losing them. Grief over losing a dog is overwhelming and many people suffer from intense grief. Studies have shown that the grief over losing a dog is as hard as losing a family member, sometimes even harder. There are five stages of grief, some say there are seven. One must experience and feel the pain, don’t try to go around it, but you must go through it. Trying to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol simply does not work.
There is a place this side of Heaven called “The Rainbow Bridge” and is a beautiful poem, the author is unknown. It states there are beautiful meadows and hills. They have plenty of food and water, and they run and play with the other pets that have died and entered The Rainbow Bridge before them. They are restored to health and vigor and are maimed no longer.
Our pets are happy, but they miss one thing, us their owner who has been left behind. They look in the distance hoping to find their owner, but suddenly realize they must wait on us. Our pets live such short lives, I had always wondered why that was, but pets live short lives because they did not sin, they are innocent, therefore do not have to stay here on earth as long as we do. When Adam and Eve sinned they brought on death for animals. Some people wonder will there be animals in Heaven and my answer is yes if one believes in the Bible which I do 100% Please see Isaiah 11:6-9, Job 12:10, Ecclesiastes 3:19-21.
The Six Stages of Grief are:
- Denial- a defense mechanism to deny the pain and to avoid it.
- Shock- can offer some emotional protection against the overwhelming feelings and could last for weeks.
- Pain – shock is slowly replaced with suffering and brutal pain. It is paramount that one does not try to escape feeling the pain.
- Guilt- If I had just taken him or her to the vet sooner maybe they would not have died.
- Bargaining- Lord if you would just allow me to have him or her back I will do this or that.
The grief over losing a dog is heart wrenching indeed. Maybe it’s because dogs are so beneficial to a humans well being. There are seven areas where dogs are most beneficial to humans:
- Asthma and allergy immunity in young children.
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
We all have a love hormone inside us called oxytocin (our feel good hormone), endorphins helps those with PTSD greatly. It helps young children from developing allergies later in life. This hormone also helps those with heart problems and disease, and those who have had heart surgery have a much better outlook on life, thus giving them a much better rate of survival if they have a pet, namely a dog, but a cat will work also. A dog is more dependant on human’s and they need to be taken for walks which in turn helps one suffering from heart disease and the depression that sets in.
Having a dog also helps children with Autism with their social skills. If a child grows up having a dog (cat) from the ages of 4-5 they display remarkable improvements with helping others who may be coping with the same issue. This is also true of kids who have cancer. They are just more social and outgoing and experience less isolation which aids in their position to be compliant with the guide lines to their cancer treatments.
Having a dog (or cat) helps those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Pets offer beneficial mental stimulation which plays a big role in the prevention of cognitive degeneration. To a caregiver a pet helps with stress and anxiety, it abates anxiety, and depression. Therapy dogs have positive effects on pain levels Marcus (2013) reports that moods were improved, pain levels lowered, also helped with fibromyalgia.
Animal presence brings great beneficial changes to the social behavior of children with autism (O’Haire 2013).
Walking Programs (Johnson 2010) Sedentary adults with therapy animals showed great success over a year. Dogs need us to feed them and take them for walks.
Children who did sample tasks did much better with a dog beside them. Gee 2010- the dogs being there motivated kids as well as providing very salient stimuli and this helped them to focus their attention as demanded by the task. It drew their attention to the task at hand.
Levine (2013) showed dogs reduces the risks of cardiovascular disease.
Trahan (2008) Having a pet was strongly tied to reduced risks of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as well as diffuse large celled Lymphoma.
It is apparent that science has caught up and starting to offer explanations for the intuitive knowledge that pet owners has regarding the strength of the bond between us and them, and this explains our deep loss at the death of a pet.
So is it any wonder why we grieve so when losing our beloved dog (or cat). Grief over losing a dog (or a cat) can even make one contemplate suicide. For some a pet is all they have in this world, their family members are dead, or they are estranged from their family for whatever reason.
So then the grief over losing a dog (a beloved pet, maybe a cat) can be overwhelming and one can feel intense brutal pain that they may need to see a bereavement counselor in order to deal with the stages of grief so that the grief does not become pathological grief where one cannot deal with their loss. One must experience and go through all the stages of grief and have someone to talk to. Failure to grieve properly can lead to physical illnesses, and mental illness as well.