Dogs mourn the loss of companions, whether they are human or animal. Like people, grief is one of the basic emotions dogs experience according to Dr. Sophia Yin, a San Francisco veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist. They also feel fear, happiness, sadness and anger, as well as possessiveness. She, and other scientists are studying the human-dog bond and trying to learn more about how dogs feel and think.
Yin says dogs in mourning may also show similar signs of grief when they are separated for long periods from the person they are bonded to. Most commonly, dogs who are grieving display depression. They also sleep more than normal, move slower, eat less and are not as interested in playing.
Barbara King, a professor of anthropology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia says the strong interspecies bond between dogs and people has had a long time to evolve. Dog-human connections dates back 15,000 years. Given that amount of time, dog and human friendships have developed extensively and each is highly attuned to the other, she says.
King points out that in her research, she found that in households with two dogs that have lived together for years, some owners reported that when one dog dies, the other gets depressed.
Although skeptics might point out the change of daily routine, or the dog being empathetic with his/her owner's grief would cause depression, King thinks differently.
"The surviving dog is searching around the house for a lost companion - looking in favorite places, going to places that they spent with their friend, very pointed actions that tell you the dog is missing his friend," she said.
Footage from a traffic camera overlooking a busy freeway in Santiago, Chile captured a dog performing a heroic act — pulling an injured friend from oncoming traffic.
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