Last week an image surfaced from the earthquake disaster in Italy, of a loyal blonde cocker spaniel called Flash, lying by the casket of his master. The touching image gives us an insight into the instinctive and natural need to mourn and leaves us questioning whether we could learn something from our beloved pets.
The thought that dogs mourn our passing reminds us of the well-known story of Greyfriars Bobby, a devoted Skye Terrier that guarded the grave of his master 14 years after his passing, throughout all weather conditions.
The loyalty of both Flash and Greyfriars Bobby is matched by countless dogs all around the world, that appear to mourn the loss of a loved one like us. Four other dedicated dogs that remained loyal to their master are:
A dog well known in Japan for following his masters commuting schedule for 10 years after he passed away. Hachiko went to the train station every day waiting for his owner, in the hope they would return.
The image of Figo mourning his master, fallen police officer Jonathan Palmer went viral. People familiarised with the picture of Figo with his paw on the casket, appearing to mourn his human partner.
Spot was a faithful dog that waited for her owners return at the corner of their street every day. When a drunk driver killed Spot’s owner in 2010, she would still wait for him 5 months after.
This dog’s owner passed away in a car crash. They remained on the highway where the car crashed and refused to move. Staying there for over a year, waiting for the return of their master. The dog was named ‘Siberian Hachikō’, because of the similarity of his loyalty to the Japanese dog Hachikō.
Why are we so interested in these images and stories that they become viral? It could be the heart-warming thought that our own dogs mourn us when we are gone, or it could be that it is comforting to think that even animals are affected by death.
The stories of pets left without their master in times of crisis add a particularly harrowing image to disasters or deaths, and a touching belief that we are not the only ones affected by loss. It reminds us that mourning is a natural instinct and that despite the differences between our pets and ourselves, we should respect and recognise the primal need to mourn.
Man’s best friend’s openness at sharing their grief touches our hearts and teaches us that bereavement support is important for us to process our grieving.