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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pet’s death deserves equal grief to family member’s death

    The death of a loved one can be one of the hardest things to overcome, and the grief and remorse attached to this loss is something that most people are not strangers to. The loss of a pet can be equally painful. This grief, even if only for an animal, should not be surprising or shunned, especially when pet owners have spent 10 or more years caring for their animals.

    Joe Yonan, a writer for the Washington Post, recently wrote an article where he compared the loss of his Doberman, Red, to the loss of his father and sister.

    “Somehow, much to my distress, the death of my dog seems even harder,” Yonan said. “I haven’t felt grief quite like this since the death of my previous dog five years ago.”

    Nearly all of the comments listed under Yonan’s article were sympathetic, but there were some who felt that grieving more for the death of a pet than for a family member was despicable, and insulted Yonan for having these feelings.

    At first it may sound terrible to think that anyone could have cried more over the death of their dog than the death of an immediate family member, but is it really that hard to believe?

    “I don’t think that it means that you love your animal more than your family member, it’s just that when a family member dies it’s more of a shock, whereas when a pet dies it’s easy for the grief to settle in quickly,” said Quang Tran, an engineering freshman.

    After picking out a puppy and raising and caring for it in return for unconditional love and affection every day, it’s hard not to see why this wouldn’t be the case.

    “The difference is the pet gave them constant companionship, and there was total dependency, then they start to realize that’s why they’re grieving so intensely,” Sandra Barker, the director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, told the Washington Post.

    Because of the amount of time and care spent in raising an animal, the human-animal bond becomes increasingly stronger. In a 1988 study in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling, dog owners were asked to place a symbol for immediate family members as well as their pets in a circle around them at varying distances. The closer the symbol for the person or dog was to the subject represented the closeness of the relationship to the subject.

    In most of the cases, the dog was placed as close to the owner as the most immediate family member. In 38 percent of the cases, the dog was the closest.

    “The bond that we have with animals is so different than with people because we are their caretakers,” said Rebecca Hamlin, a graduate student studying 3D studies. “We see grandparents and even siblings as individual people and animals are almost like children, so when they die, it’s like a part of us dies.”

    A pet’s death should not go unnoticed, and people suffering from the death of an animal should be given time to recover instead of simply having to brush it off their shoulders.

    — Rebecca Miller is a junior studying photography and journalism. She can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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