A Reader’s Review:   “You can’t read this story without a tissue. This is a touching story about a boy Riley who wants to make his retriever Jasper’s last day very special. Together the family celebrates what a great companion Jasper has been by visiting many of the places that have been special to him. I would read this story along with my child. Although sad, it is a sweet story of a family’s love and respect for a dog they certainly viewed as a member of the family.”

You can purchase a copy from this link  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jaspers-day-marjorie-blain-parker/1006326945

(Author Unknown)

And God asked the feline spirit,
“Are you ready to come home?”
“Oh, yes, quite so,” replied the precious soul
“And, as a cat, you know I am most able
To decide anything for myself.”

“Are you coming then?” asked God.
“Soon,” replied the whiskered angel.
“But I must come slowly
For my human friends are troubled
For you see, they need me, quite certainly.”

“But don’t they understand?” asked God,
“That you’ll never leave them?
That your souls are intertwined. For all eternity?
That nothing is created or destroyed?
It just is….forever and ever and ever.”

“Eventually they will understand,”
Replied the glorious cat.
“For I will whisper into their hearts
That I am always with them
I just am….forever and ever and ever.”



Book Review: Kate, The Ghost Dog: Coping With The Death Of A Pet – by Wayne Wilson

My review originally posted on Feathered Quill Reviews

Aleta is a bright, free-spirited, young girl who lives with her parents and younger brother. She has two great friends she loves spending her time with, and even has aspirations on becoming a veterinarian someday. On a most terrible day, Aleta returns home to discover that the family dog, Kate, has died. Although Aleta does understand that animals can’t possibly live forever, she is completely devastated over the loss of the dog, and doesn’t want to accept the truth at first. As the days pass, Aleta goes through her own grief process that includes isolation so she doesn’t have to talk about it, to anger and even pretending that Kate’s ghost has returned to the family. Her pain also spills into school as she breaks down and cries in class, and Aleta doesn’t want to participate in a memorial for Kate, nor does she want to play with her two best friends. Thankfully, with the help of her family, uncle, and close friends, Aleta is able to overcome her grief and turn her raw feelings into positive memories of Kate.

Author Wayne Wilson, coupled with illustrator Soud, present an admirable story on grief and pet loss for children that not only perfectly identifies many of the emotions children can experience during such an event, but also points out the equally valuable ways in which the healing process can, and does, occur. This story is eloquently written, flows well, and keeps the reader’s attention throughout, while the illustrations are gently sprinkled amongst key points in the story, rather than having them included on every page, which is often seen in more simple picture books. The book stresses the importance of building on family support, and creating positive memories of times spent with a beloved pet, which can be equally transformed into human loss too. Kate, the Ghost Dog also includes a summarization of helpful tips on how to cope with pet loss that can be a useful tool for not only children, but also adults.

Quill says: Kate, the Ghost Dog is a positive book that respectfully discusses the grief process for children, and is a beneficial tool for both parents and schools alike.

For more information on Kate, the Ghost Dog, please visit the author’s website WayneLWilson.net

Here is what they had to say:


Oh, how I wish when I die my dog Skippy or my cat Peaches would meet me at the gate and we would go on like we were never apart. Life would be easier to live if after death we could all meet in a glorious place and continue on with the people and pets who passed before us.

Unfortunately, I believe that is not the way it works. When people and animals die, they are kept alive by our fond memories of them and, in the case of people, our genes that our children and grandchildren carry. Sadly for all living things, when we die that is the end.

— Virginia Weaver Sabol, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie

Buddhism considers all of life to be evolving toward higher consciousness and sees nonhuman life to be divine, just  as is human life. Animals are seen to be an evolving kingdom of living creatures destined in time to attain perfect enlightenment. Therefore,to harm any living thing is to do injury to the divine. Since animals are considered to be traveling toward enlightenment just as humans are, neither are they to be harmed, discouraged or hampered in their progress.

— Jim Hamilton, Erie Karma Thegsum Choling Tibetan Buddhist Center

I may not be able to prove that animals do or do not have the necessary souls that would bring them to the afterlife, but I will say that the afterlife will be a very lonely and horrible place if our dearest friends and “family” were not there to greet us when we cross over the veil.

— Grollwynn (Christopher Temple), Whispering Lake Grove, ADF

I do not believe that animals go to heaven when they die. The Bible does not teach on whether animals have souls or if they can even go to heaven. The first book in the Bible, Genesis, states both man and animals do have the breath of life (Genesis 1:30,6:17, 7:17 and 7:22).

There is a big difference between humans and animals. The difference is humans are made in God’s likeness and image (Genesis 1:26-27). God also breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). Humans are capable of spirituality, and future heaven is promised to mankind but never animals that die (Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:4). Animals are a part of God’s creative process, and God said that they were good (Genesis 1:25). I also believe that animals will be a part of the future kingdom but it is impossible to say whether they can die and come back to life (Isaiah 11:6, 65:25).

— Seth Crowell, Assemblies of God, Erie

I don’t think that much about the afterlife, but it seems to me that without all of those that we have loved (and that includes the animals who add so much to our lives), that it would be incomplete. So, if Morgaine Imelda, Smokey Joe and all the other furry friends aren’t there, I’m not going.

— Mike Mahler, Erie

Of course there are animals in the afterlife. I can’t imagine God denying us one of his greatest creations. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed, amused, entertained and loved by one of God’s creatures. God did not put animals on this Earth just for food or sport. Instead, he put them here for three other reasons.

The first is to enjoy. Who hasn’t admired a beautiful bird in their yard, and look at the millions of people who flock to our forests and parks just to catch a glimpse of an elk, deer or even a bear.

We also learn from animals. Every day, science discovers another way we can learn from these creatures. It may be the study of the traffic patterns of ants or how bird migration corresponds with the weather.

At last there’s love. That unconditional love your pet gives you every day. They don’t care how you look, the money you make or even if your breath is bad. They are there to greet and love you after your long day.

No, I can’t imagine God not including animals in our afterlife. Without them, we would be missing the “life” in afterlife.

— Cheryl Wenslow, Unity in Edinboro

This may be the easiest question I’ve had all day. Just go to Revelation 6:2,4,5 and 8. I take the Bible at face-value. I’m sure John knew what a horse looked like, so there would be no mistaking it for something else. Also, God made all living things. I believe he can “talk” to all living things, and they have a way to talk to him. To say otherwise puts limits on God. My God has no limits.

— Bob Boyd, Immanuel Baptist Church, Erie

The church has no explicit doctrine about animals in heaven or the afterlife. It’s a matter of theological speculation.

However, concerning “last things” the church teaches about “a new heaven and a new Earth,” that presumably includes animals (Lumen Gentium,48; Catechism 1042-1050). My wife and I have similar discussions about whether or not animals have souls.

According to Aristotle and Aquinas, they do. But they define “soul” very broadly as the “principle of life” or “life-force.” Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and a popular author, speculates that there must be animals in heaven. His opinion can be summarized in this simple syllogism: 1. Heaven is a state of perfect happiness. 2. Animals (including our pets) are part of our happiness. 3. Therefore, animals are part of heaven.

Jesus didn’t say anything about animals in heaven. But I often wonder what happened to the donkey after Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday.

— Deacon Dennis Kudlak, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Erie

I believe there is a heaven for animals and an afterlife for them.

I act responsibly and lovingly toward all of God’s creatures. Acceptance, love, kindness, generosity — all these qualities can be true of the pets that share our lives.

I bless all animals in my prayers, always acknowledging that they, too, are being divinely cared for and loved by the same God that protects and loves all.

I give thanks for the pets who keep me and others company. More than just animals, they are beloved family members. These pets never need to be asked for love and acceptance. They are given without question and without thought of return. I give thanks for animal friends and the joy they add to my life.

All creatures proclaim their Father’s power and testify His love. All creatures are miracles and gifts from God, but I believe because I’ve seen the miracle of love. These are the overflowing riches of His grace. There is a heaven for all of God’s creatures. They were here first.

— Rita Trabert, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, Erie

As Toto was in the land of Oz, so animals will be in heaven.

That’s great news for most people, especially to think that in the place of perfection, there will be no more accidents on the carpet.

Animals don’t have souls like people, so I doubt very much that I’ll see my dog again. But animals will be part of the new creation of God. What was created in perfection the first time will be re-created in perfection the second time.

The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse into the next life, where the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the calf with the lion. Animals are part of God’s eternal created order.

In Revelation 21, we behold the Lamb, a name for Jesus Christ. The time frame there is the eternal state. If animals were not in heaven, no one there would understand what the metaphor means.

Yes, expect to see animals in heaven. You’ll encounter a zoo there like none on Earth.

— Rev. Al Detter, Grace Church, McKean

“The whole creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.” Romans 8:19 “The world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” — Romans 8:21

From these statements in the Bible, we can see that all creation — plants, animals, along with us humans who care for them on this Earth, are waiting for their freedom.

Remember how God told Noah to take the animals into the ark so they would survive the great flood? It was out of his great love for the work of his hands, the innocent animals of which man is the greatest.

Thus, the animals will also be living with us in heaven, as in the garden of paradise, as their creator intended.

Sin entered the world by one man Adam, but by one man, Jesus Christ, we were freed from the curse of sin and corruption. As we will live in the glory of God in his kingdom, so also will the rest of his creation.

God is love, and he wants the best for all things that he made — all people, trees and plants, cats, dogs and every kind of living creature. The lion will lie down with the lamb. In the kingdom of peace, we will be united with God, and reunited with each other and with our beloved animals.

— Ann M. Filutze, Order of Secular Discalced Carmelites, St. Joseph Community, Erie

The Bible informs us that God created Adam and Eve in his image and likeness. All the creatures of the Earth, the heavens and of the sea were made for our use. They were put here for food, aiding in labor and providing comforting companionship as pets.

I personally feel animals are to be used and fully appreciated during their life span, but afterlife in heaven just isn’t there for them. Having said that, in all truth I’d rather select some pets instead of some of the earthly “human losers” I’ve worked with over the years to share my eternal reward with, that’s for sure.

But it’s God’s call, not mine.

— Leo Swigonski, Holy Family Catholic Church, Erie

As a Neopagan, specifically an ADF Druid, I offer praise to the Three Kindred; the Shining Ones, the Nature Spirits and the Ancestors. As all living animals are part of the Nature Spirits, when their bodies die and they leave this world, I believe those spirits exist as part of the Ancestors.

The Ancestors are not just of my blood (in the case of a family member or pet), they are of spirit, too. There are animals who are now extinct, or those hunted for food (and given the gift of life to others), for those that have gone I offer praise; be it stories, songs, food, to show them I have not forgotten them, that they are appreciated, honored and shown praise.

So, these beings will exist, as spirits, as part of the dead, as a form of the Ancestors.

Personally, as for an afterlife, I concern myself with the here and now. If we make virtuous choices, and do things well now, the next life will be taken care of when we get there.

— Grey (Paul) Whittney, Snow Water Grove, ADF

God said let the Earth bring forth creatures according to their kinds, and God saw it was good (Genesis).

You fall in love with pets and they fill your home with love.

My beloved cat and dogs have been four-legged blessings in my life with their unconditional love for me. They know when I am happy or sad. They keep my secrets and never betray me. When my world fell apart, my pet was right at my side, ready to snuggle, listen and with her eyes say, “Mom, things will get better soon!”

Since God created pets to be my very best friends and companions in life, I truly believe with all my heart that God will greet me with my family and friends along with Lady, Flipper,Pumpkin, Bozo, Turkey-Bird and Rosie.

We will all cross the Rainbow Bridge to be together forever once again in heaven.

— Rebecca Bliley, First Presbyterian Church of Waterford

I do believe that there are animals in heaven or the afterlife. Animals have a life of their own and have some of the same characteristics a human has. Some people even consider the pet they have as part of the family.

I know plenty of families that have buried their pets and gave them a ceremony just as they would for humans. Just because animals look different and are from the wild doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

God said that he created everyone equally. I believe this goes for animals as well. A big reason why I believe this is because of pain. No one likes the word pain and hates feeling it, and I think that’s how animals feel about it to. They feel pain, just as much as humans do, and it would be wrong to not think animals go to heaven or an afterlife.

— Jeff Slater, Christian

I have always heard about the Rainbow Bridge. It’s the place where all the pets you ever had wait for you in heaven until your happy arrival.

Our relationship with animals has evolved over the years. We used to be the stern master. They were in the doghouse, rain or shine. Gradually, pets moved into our houses, our beds, our hearts.

Animals have lived with me all of my life, each one unique and precious. I’ve felt the sting of being ignored by a cat for being gone too long. But also there’s the ecstatic jumping, barking, wagging doggy reception, too.

Jesus left us with the most important commandment — to love one another. I don’t know about most people, but pets have unconditional love for their humans.

Animals have exquisite minds, big hearts and, yes, souls. Why wouldn’t they go to heaven?

— Sally Messenkopf, First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie

The subject of animals in heaven, spirit and the afterlife is one that is very close to my heart. How could anyone ever doubt that which is unconditional love would not transcend this physical existence?

Every being is a spark of the divine. Look into the eyes of your dog, cat, horse and see and sense that inner being. Feel that endless joy and peace that all of our domestic animals bring into our lives.

I believe that dogs and cats live in the original state of connectedness with being. They are here to help us regain that feeling of oneness with our creator. They remain in a state of deep awareness with all energy and life around them.

I also believe that animals can become our spirit guides and guardian angels, and their love truly never dies.They communicate with us telepathically, also with their hearts.

As a medium, I have been honored with their presence and communication many times. All animals bring wisdom, love and peace. Open your heart today and allow that unconditional love into your life.

— Rev. Brenda Beck, Namaste’ Center, Meadville

Friday, November 27, 2009
On Nov. 2, my husband and I were working in the yard. Alongside of us was Buffy, our little Yorkie. We did not realize it, but Buffy had gotten too close to the road and a car came along and hit her. The car did not stop.

A woman named Shelia saw the accident and stopped. She picked Buffy up and brought her over to us.

She continually apologized for the loss of our little Buffy.

Heartbroken, we buried Buffy. Later that evening, we had an engagement for about two hours. When we returned home there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a sympathy card waiting for us. The card simply read ‘Shelia.’

Shelia, your act of kindness has meant so much to us during this time of grief. It gives us comfort to know that such a caring individual took her time to show us love when we needed it so much.

Thank you for your kindness, and may God bless you.

Chester and Marie Turner, Climax

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

— Author unknown

How to know when it is time to say goodbye?

This decision is the hardest part of owning a pet, our pets and companions have put their trust in us, and we must decide when enough is enough. I believe there are several important questions to ask yourself:

Is the pet still eating and drinking?
Can the pet walk enough to get up and go to the toilet by itself?
Is the pet still happy to see you?
Have you had your pet examined by a vet?
If all reasonable vet care has been given to the pet and there is nothing else you can do to relieve the suffering it may then be time to consider euthanasia.

People find this decision very difficult and spend a lot of time agonizing about it. Usually as the deterioration in the pet’s condition happens slowly and there is no clear reason or time to take the pet down to the vet. It is always good to talk to your vet about the condition of your pet as there maybe simple solutions to your pet’s problems. The vets’ job is to help you make this decision and then support you in this decision. Sometimes economic reasoning must come into the decision making, you could spend a lot more money but this may only extend the life of the pet for a small amount of time. Some people would put themselves into a lot of debt to pay for the treatment of their pets. This always humbles me as a vet that people would go without so much to save their pet. But sometimes people have to be realistic and see that the best solution is euthanasia, this can be quite painful to realize if you had more money you would go ahead with the treatment.

This is a difficult decision to make and you must balance the economic reality to the needs of the pet, your pet would not want you to suffer for it sake. When you know it is time for euthanasia you need to stay focused on that decision and do all the right things to make sure it is a good euthanasia.

By Michael O’Donoghue BVSc  People and Pets



Dr. Alice Villalobos, the veterinarian who started Pawspice, a quality of life program for terminal pets, has published a scoring system for life quality called The HHHHHMM scale.  The letters stand for: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and More Good Days than Bad.

Quality of Life Scale: The HHHHHMM Scale
Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine the success of pawspice care. Score patients using a scale of 1 to 10.
Score Criterion
1-10 HURT – Adequate pain control, including breathing ability, is first and foremost on the scale. Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Is oxygen necessary?
1-10 HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the patient require a feeding tube?
1-10 HYDRATION – Is the patient dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.
1-10 HYGIENE – The patient should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Avoid pressure scores and keep all wounds clean.
1-10 HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?
1-10 MOBILITY – Can the patient get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, yet an animal who has limited mobility but is still alert and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping the pet.)
1-10 MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.
*TOTAL *A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality

Adapted by Villalobos, A.E., Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004, for Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, by Blackwell Publishing, Table 10.1, released 2006

Dear SPCA,
My elderly lab recently died. We’ve all had a difficult time coping with the loss but I am concerned about my other dog, Rhea. She doesn’t want to play, lays around and even went to her friend’s crate, went inside and howled and whined. I have since donated the crate to a local shelter. Do dogs grieve? What can I do to for her? Should I get another puppy right away? Thanks for your opinion – M.

Dear M.,
Scientists have long debated whether or not dogs and other animals have emotions, even though it seems clear to those of us who live with them that they do. The current consensus is that they do have emotions, but that their emotions don’t map directly to human ones.

Since Rhea does sound like she is distressed and the distress began with the absence of your other dog, you can describe her behavior as grief-related. However, it may also be, in part, a reaction to your changes in affect as well as changes to her daily schedule and amount of enrichment. Stimulation in the form of extra exercise, outings, games and toys loaded with treats could serve as a welcome distraction for her. Extra training sessions could help, too. Learning new behaviors tends to suppress emotion. Short, fun sessions, where she can earn food and/or interactive play with you could help perk her up and take the edge of your grief as well.

If she is too stressed to learn well, start with easy versions of things she already knows, reward her extra well to catch her interest and then work up to more difficult training. As for not being ready for a puppy, don’t feel bad about that! You can’t assume her life would be improved by a potentially troublesome puppy, who will require a disproportionate share of your time and attention. Furthermore, the puppy will grow into a boundary-testing adolescent and then into a socially mature dog. Depending on how old and how bold Rhea is, she could then find herself challenged for control of resources such as her bed, her people and her food that she used to have free access to in her own home. If your lab was her only canine friend, she might not need or want another companion at all.

Dogs who live with another dog but do not regularly meet and play with other dogs in different environments often become unused to other dogs and do not interact well with them. An earlier blog entry, Does my dog need a friend?, talks about choosing a canine companion for a formerly “only dog”. If your family (including Rhea) is up to it, you could even try some of the suggestions about introducing her to other dogs to see whether finding a companion for her is even desirable. Assuming Rhea likes dogs, here’s another idea – foster one! There are many organizations that desperately need temporary homes for dogs. You can provide Rhea with a friend who is well-matched in energy level and temperament without having to find a dog with all the other qualities that you want in a “forever dog” and without going through puppy rearing! At the same time, you can heal your grief and honor the memory of your lab by saving dogs’ lives. Fostering is very rewarding, but it can be hard not to get attached. The secret is to think of your foster as a visitor en route to his home. As you discover all the great things about your foster, you write them up to help him get chosen and free up your crate to save another precious life like his. The Houston SPCA has a sizable foster program, which gives many animals a comfortable foster home and loving foster parents while they wait for their forever home. Although we have many labs, if you are looking for a specific breed, age, and/or temperament, you may want to try rescue groups. Most are small, all-volunteer, non-profit companies. To find one, try an internet search using the keywords “dog rescue Houston” adding the name of a breed if you wish. For more ideas for enrichment activities for your dog or if you need to discuss your concerns further, call the Houston SPCA Animal Behavior and Training Department at 713-869-7722 ext. 190 or email us at Behavior@hspca.org.

Posted by houstonspca at April 30, 2010 05:20 AM

I know that ‘science’ can’t prove (OR DIS-PROVE) animal emotion – those of us who know animals know that they DO indeed grieve. Grief is nothing more than an awareness of an absence. That absence is made recognizable by changes in routine, sounds; smells; and activities. Grief manifests itself in physical symptoms such as chills or warm flashes; appetite changes; muscle pain or tenseness; and a variety of other measurable responses to a loss. Emotionally that transfers into confusion, inattention, in ability to focus, and basic stress. All mammals share this overall process. Our interpretations of grief vary based on our history, environment and upbringing. And yes, our species.

Posted by: Just__A__Thought at April 30, 2010 12:21 PM

Of course dogs grieve. Dogs have emotions, like all mammals, including humans. Indeed, presumably most higher vertebrates, including mammals, birds, and reptiles have emotions. And even the lower vertebrates (like fish and amphibians) probably have some primitive emotions. Given the great anatomical similarities of all mammals, not to mention the genetic DNA similarities, this should not be a surprise. It would be more of a surprise if they didn’t. The part of the brain that processes emotion is one of the oldest and earliest evolved parts of the brain, long before humans or our immediate ancestors came around, so for that reason alone one would expect emotions to be widespread in the animal kingdom. Science is about making observations.

We can’t see inside a dog’s brain to see if it is experiencing some emotion, but we can’t see inside a human’s brain to see if it is experiencing some emotion either. However, we can observe events that seem to trigger specific emotional reactions in humans and then check to see whether common physiological responses occur. We can do exactly the same thing in dogs and other animals and see if they have similar responses. If we do consistently see such responses, then it is reasonable to assume the existence of emotions similar to our own in these other species. And in fact actually observing animals (as opposed to simply making some pronouncement with no observable basis, often only on the basis of personal prejudice) shows they do have many emotions similar to ours, which again should be no surprise at all. The reason it is a surprise to many people is that strong cultural attitudes to the contrary have existed for a long time.

The reason for these attitudes is not a surprise either. Humans have long used animals for many purposes, for food (both directly, for their flesh, and indirectly, for their products, like eggs or milk), for clothing (such as wool or fur), for protection (like guard dogs), to control pests (like cats eating mice), for sport (like hunting, dog fighting, cock fighting, bull fighting), for medical testing, for war (like horses or the elephants of the Carthaginians), for transportation (like horses), for hauling (like mules and oxen), for farming, and so on. Many of these purposes include killing or injuring said animals.

Consequently, it became very convenient for humans to pretend that animals had no thoughts or feelings (in spite of much evidence to the contrary). Because otherwise, we would have to consider potentially uncomfortable ethical issues in our treatment of animals. Or even worse, curtail some of these activities, which would threaten many people’s profits or livelihoods. Of course, we have even done this with other humans, as when slavery existed in this country, when black people were considered subhuman so they could continue to be exploited (though laws were also passed making it illegal to teach black people to read or write, which should have been unnecessary if it was really believed they were subhuman and thus incapable of reading or writing).

Also, we as a species seem to have a lot of species insecurity. It seems many of us have to try to downgrade the ability of other species to think and feel in order to feel better about ourselves as the supposed pinnacle of creation. I suspect this comes from our evolutionary heritage, with our ape-like forebears cowering in the dark and rain on an east African plain, hoping some great gaping maw does not materialize out of the dark to devour them. That probably made them pretty insecure, and although we have since developed all this technology to give us great physical power, that emotional insecurity is probably still there.

As far as direct evidence for canine and feline emotions, I have seen quite a bit myself, having had a number of dogs and cats over the last 24 years. I am a scientist by training, having studied math and physics and computer science and had courses in chemistry and biology and read extensively on paleontology, evolutionary biology, and genetics, so I have tended to observe my animals with the eyes of trained scientist. I have been especially fortunate in this regard in having had multiple dogs for a long time, because dogs are pack animals, like their wolf forebears that humans manually evolved over the last 10 or 15 thousand years or so.

Much interesting canine behavior thus only occurs in the context of a pack, so that if you only have one dog, or even only two, there is a lot you probably will not see. Between cats and dogs, I think I have seen about all the common simple human emotions, where they react to specified situations very much as humans would. Humans have some complex emotional behaviors, apparently bound up with our much higher intelligence, which I suspect are not seen in other animals. I doubt dogs or cats indulge in extreme infatuations or things like anorexia, for example.

But when it comes to basic, simple emotions, I think animals have most of them, including fear, depression, loneliness, boredom, grief, lust, jealousy, vindictiveness (particularly in cats), deceit, friendship, hope, love, mild dislike, extreme dislike, subdued animosity, hate, bullying, and perhaps others. I have certainly seen clear examples of all these things, often many times. I suspect fear is one of the oldest and most basic emotions, probably present even in simple vertebrates and maybe even in simpler creatures. Fear seems to go along with pain. Pain is not an emotion, but it does tend to produce emotional responses, which may produce fear of events which caused such pain.

People often tend to think fear and pain are bad things, but this is a great misunderstanding. Both are in fact great evolutionary advances, pain probably coming first, and very early, and fear later. If you were an early fish that had not evolved the ability to feel pain, some predator might chomp on you, and you would just calmly sit there and allow yourself to be eaten, meaning you would have less chance to reproduce and spread your genes for feeling no pain. But if you had evolved the ability to feel pain, when you got chomped on, that would hurt, triggering an attempt to either fight back or get away, giving you a better chance of spreading your genes for feeling pain. This means creatures that could feel pain would eventually out multiply and supplant creatures that could not, as seems to have happened. And fear is similar, because it allows you to tag past incidents that caused pain, so you can try to avoid them in the future.

So fear clearly had (and has) survival value (contrary to the dictates of the unemotional Mr. Spock). The problem of course with both pain and fear is that they do not discriminate well, being very simple and low level functions. Sometimes you feel pain which you cannot do anything about, in which case the pain is not helpful and maybe even harmful if it is severe enough. And sometimes you develop fears of things that are not really harmful, which can lead to all sorts of other problems. But the point is that both pain and fear work well enough most of the time to have overall survival value, again suggesting their long existence.

Most other emotions probably also have survival value, or they would probably not still be around. And this survival value again suggests why they are so widespread in the animal kingdom. I could spend a long time cataloging the examples of various emotional behaviors I have observed in dogs and cats, but I will forgo most of that, in the interest of space, and just describe one case I did not observe, but heard about from a couple I know, because it is relevant to the original question of whether dogs can feel grief.

The couple had a black lab for a long time, then after several years got a border collie mix from the SPCA. After several more years, the lab died of bone cancer, at 13, and the other dog basically just went nuts and about drove her owners nuts. About 6 months later the guy brought home a black lab puppy for Christmas, mainly for his wife, but the other dog quickly became normal again and became chums with the new one. Clearly the older one missed her previous companion, and it took another dog to erase her loneliness.

Posted by: Vernon Williams at May 1, 2010 02:25 AM

So Long, Old Friend
Service set in memory of lost pets

Losing a pet is losing a loved one. And for many people, the grieving process can take just as long as losing a family member or friend.

Offering a safe environment for people to mourn the pets that have brightened their lives is the idea behind the pet memorial service, Paws to Remember, 10 a.m. Saturday 8 May 2010 at Central Center in Centennial Park, 1028 E. Sixth St.

“There aren’t a lot of places for people to be open about the lost of a pet,” said the Rev. Taylor McNac, a veterinarian and hospice chaplain. “I’ve seen how a memorial can be a place of healing and encouragement from others — a place where you can find understanding.”

Taylor McNac has envisioned a citywide pet memorial for years and contacted the Oklahoma Animal Alliance to help organize the event. She is the creator of Pet Peace of Mind, a program for hospice patients and pets, and sees first hand the joy that pets bring to people with terminal illnesses.

“I knew that we are a significant pet-loving place in Tulsa,” she said.

The hour-long interfaith service, led by Taylor McNac, will include a candle lighting ceremony and a pet memorial
slide show.

“But it’s also a day to make a statement and stand up for pets with no voice,” said Jamee Suarez-Howard, founder and president of Oklahoma Alliance for Animals. “We also want to remember all the abandoned, abused and neglected animals, as well as pets that died in shelters and rescues that didn’t have homes. We can’t save them all, but we can show our support for them as a community of pet loving people.”

Often when someone is experiencing a pet loss they are afraid of being ridiculed.

“As a culture we are entering a new phase where pets are moving from being outside and distant to being family members — that’s changing,” Taylor McNac said. “But there’s still a significant part of our culture who doesn’t understand the bond of a pet to a person, and they might minimize the experience (of losing a pet).”

It’s important to find a safe place to express grief and loss, she said.

“Find a safe friend or family member who understands, and be wise about sharing with people who will criticize you,” she said.

Sometimes writing down your feelings helps, whether it’s through letters, poetry or blogs, she said.

“Just talking about it helps. Like with any other loss, they can become physically ill over time by not expressing it,” she said.

Therapeutics service dogs will on hand to provide support and comfort to attendees, as well as pet loss grief counselors.

Kim Brown 581-8474

Other Resources

The Asso­ci­a­tion For Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB)  has an excellent website that we recommend: www.aplb.org

Counselors in the USA

Chicago VMA

Cornell University

University of Illinois
217-244-CARE (2273)

Michigan State University

P&G Pet Care, Pet Loss Support Hotline

The Ohio State University

Tufts University

Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

Washington State University
509-335-5704  or 866-266-8635