Friday, July 5, 2013


 On and on, and ON went a recent article in Time Magazine 
 -- "The Mystery of Animal Grief." (that's a link).

Author Jeffrey Kluger quoted experts, authors, scientists, researchers, who have studied emotion in animals -- all kinds of animals, elephants to ants. And concluded, after many tests, controlled studies, and films -- that "beasts honor, mourn, and even hold wakes for their dead -- beasts  feel grief and much more."

My husband and I had a Lhasa Apso we bought when she was six-weeks-old, to be a pal, companion, and teacher for our five-year-old son, JD. That's why we named our puppy, "Teechi."

We lived in a five-story building on a busy commercial street in Manhattan. Teechi had a very friendly, loving, personality that became more so, as she responded to training -- learned her name, responded to sit -- here Teechi -- no -- nice Teechi -- bad dog -- walk?  Any sentence with "walk" in it got Teechi, grabbing her leash.

More than likely, you know this story. Teechi became a part of our family. But as our son was growing up and my husband and I succeeded in our professions (which involved a lot of traveling), our pet stayed with a neighbor. Teechi finally became part of the neighbor's family, until she died at age 12.

In my mind, Teechi is still alive, frisking around -- I chuckle, and remember moments with her, sometimes feel guilty that we couldn't take her with us when we traveled, but more than anything, I truly miss her.

Kluger's article told me nothing about what I'd like to know.  Why do we need pets? Why are pets so important?

Throughout time, even in ancient history, pets are referred to as a huge part of peoples' lives. Beloved and adored like children, when they die, they're mourned forever -- as a lost child or a dead parent is mourned.

What is it?  Is it that we, as parents, even as grandparents, remain the child?  Is the pet you -- the innocent, needy, hungry, helpless part of you that needs loving care -- petting, treats, pleasures as well as feeding, exercise, and grooming?

I find myself thinking that you -- yes, YOU -- need what you give your pet, and giving it to your pet nurtures you -- that loving a pet, tending a pet keeps you alive.


Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Our love for our dog is overwhelming, something I never expected, having previously had cats and having been frightened of dogs. To experience his devotion and dependence feeds the maternal instinct and the soul. We would be lost without him.

Anonymous said...

EmIly, I think we have a deep seated need to love and be loved. Beyond that, if we have a nurturing nature we truly enjoy taking good care of someone else and watching them blossom into all they are capable of becoming. These loving feelings, and our pets appreciation, shelter & protect us in a world that can dispose of us on a whim in so many hurtful ways. Deep down we know they can feel all the emotions we can feel - confusion, elation, excitement, pain, joy and sorrow - and loving them well comes full circle back to us

Carola said...

I would love to have a pet, but I am allergic to both cats and dogs. I love animals and get happy when I meet one on the street. Cats like me and will come sit in my lap (uninvited) when I visit friends. I have to reluctantly make them jump off. Someday I will get a turtle - not for love, but just to have an animate being to watch as he moves around my house. With my luck he'll just stay in his shell all day and only come out when I'm asleep.

Poet_Carl_Watts said...

Life loves life :-)

Only the insane, near death, hate life, wants all to die.

Animals are part of life, part of my life. Always have a pet or two under feet! Give me pleasure and problems both!

Linda Phillips said...

I have always had an animal. I've had 5 dogs and 10 cats.

I currently have only one lucious, loving, licking, devoted cat named Teddy.

I would be lost without an animal in my life. I would feel so lonely. I can't imagine my life without a sweet loving little creature in it.

I have never analized it beyond the facts that I love animals and in my case they have assumed the role of my babies. Never having been a mother, they have always been my children.

I have experienced the grief of loosing these deeply beloved friends more times than I care to remember. It has always been a dreadful experience and in some cases the grief never left me.

Anonymous said...

I love my dogs and I love cats to. I had a yorkie when I had cancer and she was a god sent to me. She was like a human except she had more love then most humans do today. They are the best friends and so kind, it is how you raise them, if you raise them with love and treat them with respect you will get that back from them. I love animals.

Dustspeck said...

All life forms have the capacity for sensing changes in their surroundings. All that is needed for grief to occur is for what is familiar to exit. It's a reaction to that absence, a kind of self awareness essential for cognition.

Breeze misses me and grieves my absence though I am still alive.

Louise Sorensen said...

I don't know if I mentioned this on a previous blog comment, but there is evidence that humankind starting domesticating dogs about 70,000 years ago.
I am always amazed when I consider the bond possible between humans and other animals. IMHO, humans are so peculiar, cruel and selfish it's hard for me to understand how another species could love us.
But other animals aren't perfect either, and we all evolved from the same roots, so maybe that's the answer.
As well, humans have been preserving the animals they got along with, and throwing the rest in the cooking pot, since other species started hanging around us. Dogs started out hanging around the garbage pit, and cats started hanging round when we started farming and the stored grain attracted mice and rats.
I saw a program on dogs recently that stated from studies on tracking dogs' eye movement when they were watching humans, that dogs track human facial expression the exact same way humans track each other's facial expression. We do it to read facial expression, and it is believed that dogs can and do read human facial expression. Amazing!
My cats can do it too though. So can my horses.
It's also hard for me to imagine a life form (ie on a different planet) that does not rely on love or something like it, to survive.
Love generates partnerships, interdependence, trust, loyalty and alliances, all of which increase an organism's chance of survival.
Love is love. It doesn't matter what creature is loving what other creature.
Love is like a drug. We need it. So do many if not most of the other creatures on our planet. (I don't know about crocodiles, alligators, sharks.)
I still mourn a little cat named Sinbad. I rescued him from a bad situation, and he lived with us for 7 months before he was hit by a car on St. Patrick's Day 2004.
I still mourn two beautiful cats, Ernie, and Zeezee, who walked side by side down the path towards the back of our farm property July 26, 2006 and never came back. Killed by coyotes, I think.
It could be that grief in animals, and humans, comes from love. For many years, scientists believed that animals had no emotions. Now they're finding out that... Hell yeah! Animals DO have emotions. I think the earlier opinions stemmed from the old biblical beliefs that humans were not animals, that humans were above animals and that god gave humans the earth and all the animals on it for their use.
And that only humans had souls. So basically an animal other than a human was just an animated fur coat with no feelings and no soul.
Getting back to grief. And love.
I think it's best summed up in an old saying that applies to all the life-forms who have the wonderful capacity to love; "The price of love is tears."
Louise Sorensen
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