Saturday, August 10, 2013

Grieving Together

I had no idea how Princess would respond to Dee Dee's death.   No idea at all.   I had read articles recommending that two dog families should take the surviving dog along to the clinic so that they can sniff the body.  Supposedly, that helps them understand that their companion is dead.   There was just no way I could do that.   I was so completely overwhelmed that morning that it was all I could do to get myself out of bed and to the car with Dee Dee.   Taking Princess with me was unthinkable.

Besides, we were at Tim's cabin.   We weren't at home, weren't in our usual routine and she had Elvis to play with.   On top of that, she was dealing with an upset tummy herself that week.   So it wasn't until we got home, two days later, that I expected her to even notice that Dee Dee wasn't there.    I knew she'd notice that Dee Dee was gone, but I didn't know if she'd care.   After all, I'd had her almost a year before I got Dee Dee, and she'd never quite forgiven me for it.   And, while they certainly enjoyed playing together, Dee Dee could be a bully - especially towards Princess.   So I  wasn't sure how she'd respond. 

I was surprised.   Princess grieved.   Clearly.   For the first week or so, she wouldn't eat from her bowl unless I put food in Dee Dee's bowl too.   She would eat hers, and leave Dee Dee's untouched.   Eventually I'd pour Dee Dee's food back into the bag, and we'd repeat the same process the next day.    The even stronger response came when she wanted to go outside.   As the girls got older, they mostly slept when they were in the house, but they loved to play together outside.   Whenever one of them needed to go out, they would run back to get the other.    Princess continued to look for Dee Dee whenever I opened the back door.   It's hard to know how much of it was a conditioned response (a habit, as it were) and how much was intentional, but it continued for well over a month.   She was sad and confused and it broke my heart.     I shot this video one night of her looking for Dee Dee.

She still does it occasionally.   Not as much, and she tends to catch herself as she 'remembers' that Dee Dee isn't here anymore.   I've tried to explain it to her, but how do you explain death to a dog?   She is very hard of hearing, so I have had to find other ways to communicate with her.   I hold her a lot.   I scratch her neck.   I let her come to work with me on cool days.   She loves that.   We enjoy short walks in the evening, and often go across the street for frozen yogurt.  We snuggle in bed, and have had some sweet moments.    She also loves to go next door to my neighbors.   Rumor has it the treats are better there!    She'll be staying with them for 2-1/2 weeks while I'm in Africa.    And when I get home,  we'll be getting a new addition to our family.   Life goes on - but we will never forget Dee Dee and Elvis.