It’s been a month since my old dog Willow died, and I miss her healing presence. The house feels empty without her calm energy, but my young dog Disco grieves, too. She searches for the one who’s missing and I can’t explain the loss to her. Even though Willow was old and dying, she joined us for slow walks until a few days before her death.
At first, Disco wouldn’t leave the house without her friend. When I leashed her for a walk, she constantly looked back. Disco’s mournful eyes and body said, “Where’s Willow?”
Willow has been Disco’s Mama-surrogate since I adopted Disco over three years ago. Disco was an SPCA puppy and didn’t spend long with her mother, so she’s always been high strung and needy along with sweet and gentle. I broke my lifelong rule of no dogs on the bed because she needed to be close to my body when she was a baby. Maybe I needed her, too.
In the past, I didn’t leash Disco for walks and she stayed with Willow and me. Now, she sneaks away to search. “Where’s Willow?”
I thought visits from dogs she knows would help, but my friend brought her dog Jak for a walk and Disco ran ahead and disappeared as we neared my house. We found her in the road with two cars stopped to avoid hitting her. She knew I wanted her to come to me, but she wanted to keep searching. When the driver of one car yelled at her to go home, she followed me back into the driveway and didn’t resist when I leashed her. She hasn’t gone in the road again and doesn’t seem to be searching as much, but we walk on leash just in case.
Disco’s brother Stuart reassures her. They had the same mother who was turned into a shelter in Florida with a litter of 12. Disco wasn’t with her mother long, but she knew Stuart from birth and they were in the same crate when they were brought to the SPCA in Corning, NY. They were fostered together with a few other siblings. After Disco moved in with Willow and me at eight weeks old, we had frequent play dates and later forest walks with Stuart and his owner Joni.
Until Disco stops searching and trust her to come to me and stay away from the road, she’s on leash. Eventually, she’ll get it that Willow isn’t coming home. Like me and most humans, our pets long for the ones they love.
It’s not good timing for me to get another dog, so I plan more leash walking, visits with dog friends, and more training. I hope time will work this out. Have you dealt with a grieving pet? How did you handle it?