March 6, 2010

Country Mom: "The Vet said WHAT?"

Meet Penny. Penny is our 6 year old Boston Terrier. She has only ever barked about six times in her whole life, she is calm, sweet, loving and exists only to love and cuddle with our family.. At least, that's what she leads us to believe. Two years ago when Lila passed away Penny started having issues. She started peeing randomly in our dog room, tearing things up, whining, and starting eating very little. I took her to the vet in spring of '08. I'd put up with her strange behavior for almost two months and it was starting to get on my nerves. The vet ran her through a multitude of tests from her head to her tail and told me
"Nothing is wrong, it must be stress." Stress? I had stress, plenty of it, and I didn't pee on the floor!
The vet proceeded to ask me several very personal questions about our life and in the end I told her about Lila's death. She said how sorry she was to hear that we'd lost our daughter, when I told her it had only been two months since she passed - she looked at me sideways.
"From what you've told me Penny started this behavior the week after your daughter's funeral. I think it's grief."
Animal Grief? I hadn't realized it was possible on this level. I mean, I had heard of dogs having an owner for 20 years and missing them when they died, some even dying of a broken heart (supposedly) but I'd never heard of a dog grieving the loss of a child!

I took Penny home, along with a my $140 (!) bill for the vet. My husband was less than thrilled when I explained the Vet's theory. I decided to put it to the test. I gave Penny one of Lila's shirts from the laundry. She slept with it for one night,and then I took it away deciding it had been a weird thing to do. I don't know how much of a difference it made, but some will tell you animals understand more than we give them credit for.

I'm still baffled by the vet's diagnosis. But I suppose even a pet can miss a child.
We don't have as much of an issue with Penny anymore, it's been two years and she's back to her old self. I will always wonder if the Vet was right?

Has anyone else ever seen an animal who experienced grief over the loss of a family member?
If you wish to share, we'd like to hear your story and your thoughts on the subject.

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