My entire life, I’ve always had a multi animal home. I’ve been lucky enough to care for and love everything from hedgehogs to horses. I have a particular affinity for dogs and horses, however. For me, having multiple dogs in my
home brings true happiness. I love being greeted by a pack of adoring four legged friends when I come home after a long day of work, snuggling on the couch with my terrier mix on the weekends, and taking my blue heelers out for a long ride through the pastures with the horses. Caring for animals is a blessing, but it also comes with great responsibility.
Personally, I believe that one of the greatest responsibilities that we have to animals is to care for them as they age. It can be a challenge, but there is nothing you can do for an animal that is more compassionate than to see them through their golden years and help them pass with dignity.
I have had many dogs that I’ve seen through their older years, through sickness and through health. But recently, I lost two of my dogs within just a few days of each other. Both had lived out very full, long lives. I had diligently cared for them as they aged, and their bodies became less reliable. I helped them get up in the mornings; all three of us needing time to get our joints loosened up and moving. I made sure they had their medications, jackets to stay warm in the Colorado winter, and any other need they may have. It was purely coincidence that both of their bodies finally gave out on them at nearly the same time. I was fortunate to be able to be with them as they passed with grace in the comfort of our home.
In the days following their passing, I noticed a very palpable change in the dynamic in our home. My other dogs were acting completely different. One of them began leaving the boundary of our acreage; an issue that we had not had since he was a young puppy. All of my dogs were experiencing separation anxiety when I would leave; also an issue I hadn’t experienced. Honestly, I seemed unable manage their emotional happiness on a regular basis.
I realized we had lost our rocks. My two old girls had provided stability to our family and particularly, to our younger dogs. They were always there, steadfast in their patterns and predictable in their reactions. They showed our younger dogs the ropes, helped them fall into routines, and provided them with consistency. Now that they were gone, we were all struggling to find our balance again.
Animals experience a wide range of emotions, sadness and depression being just some of them. Unfortunately, we as humans do not always possess the best ability to read what our animal companions are feeling. Sadness is particularly challenging for humans to pick up on and animals can be good at hiding it. It can be little changes in their behavior like sleeping longer, disinterest in toys or food, constantly following you, or even as simple as taking longer to react when you call them.
So, what can we do for our pets that are experience loss, sadness, or depression? Here are few things that have worked for me and my pets:
- Spend the time with them that they are asking for - Extra cuddles, longer walks, taking them for car rides (if they like it), are all ways to easily integrate extra time with your animals when they are feeling down. Find a little extra time to do the things they enjoy most.
- Maintain as much structure as possible - This can be hard to do when you have had a loss and are missing some of the stability that comes with it. But do your best to keep feeding schedules, walking times, and bedtimes as normal.
- Don’t move things just yet - When you have multiple animals in a home, it can be tempting to rearrange their beds, toys, or other important items to them after a loss. Hold off as long as you can before moving things around, until the animals still in your home have moved on from the loss of their friend.
- Try Flower Essences – Of course I was going to recommend this. But really, they help immensely with loss and sadness. I started all my dogs on Life’s Changes and CrisEase after losing our two girls. It has allowed them to move forward from their loss faster. I noticed a change in them within 24 hours and my younger dog stopped leaving our property boundary. I just added it in to their water and allowed them to drink it throughout the day. I used them for myself too (yes – our formulas are safe for people!).
The truth is, there’s nothing that’s going to fill the void in your life after losing a four legged family member; it takes time to heal. But you can do things to help you and your other animals feel comfort, manage sadness, and get back to a stable household.
Do you have any other recommendations for dealing with loss or sadness? I’d love to hear your story and ideas. I also always love learning about other people’s animals and experiences! Feel free to email me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org