Research shows that dogs mourn their loved ones just like humans.
* * *
For the past decade, my mom has had two dogs: Daffy and Milo.
Milo and Daffy did everything together.
Lying on blankets:
Or on top of people:
They even had matching hoodies with their names on them:
But Milo was old, and this past summer, he started to get sick. In September, he passed away.
His death was hard for us all, but especially hard for my mom, who was the one who took care of him. My mom posted this photo to Instagram shortly after he passed away:
As for Daffy, losing her brother was confusing. Her whole life, she’d had had Milo by her side, so she didn’t understand why he wasn’t there anymore.
“Daffy won’t let me pet her, and she won’t come with me to Milo’s grave,” my mom wrote to my siblings and me shortly after Milo passed away.
At one point, Daffy walked to her bed and, when she saw Milo’s bed next to hers, turned around and walked away.
Daffy was always a super happy dog. “She used to leap like a faun through the forest when we went on walks,” my mom said. “But after Milo died, she stopped.”
There’s research to suggest that dogs grieve when they lose someone they love. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) did a behavioral study in 1996 that found pets mourn for as long as six months after a fellow pet dies.
A few weeks after Milo died, my mom started looking for another dog to cheer up Daffy (and herself). She talked to breeder after breeder, but nothing felt right until she found a breeder in the same town that Milo was from.
The breeder had a two-month-old puppy who she said was probably a distant cousin of Milo’s.
Here he is:
My mom decided to get him. She and my dad drove 10 hours from their house in Maine to the breeder’s house in upstate New York to pick him up.
When my parents returned with the new puppy, who they named Rabbit, Daffy wasn’t sure whether she liked him or not. “She was gentle with him, but she wasn’t very sure about him,” my mom said.
But, a day later, when my mom brought Rabbit to the vet to be weighed, Daffy panicked.
“She was terrified that Rabbit was going to be taken away,” my mom said. “Now, she’s taken full responsibility for him. He’s even allowed on the bed next to her,” she said, and sent me this photo of the two of them in Rabbit’s playpen:
Now, Daffy and Rabbit play together non-stop. Every week, my mom texts my siblings and me a new video of them tussling in the backyard or on the floor of my parents’ bedroom:
Daffy loves playing with Rabbit. And she seems to feel a kind of motherly urge to protect him and to teach him how to do really important things, like how to barge into the bathroom when my mom is in the tub to announce it’s time for supper.
Daffy still misses Milo, but having Rabbit around is helping her deal with her grief. “After we got Rabbit, we went for a walk, and Daffy was leaping through the air. Leaping!” my mom said.
It was hard for my mom to get another dog so soon after Milo died. “I feel shallow for having done it,” she said. “But I know Milo would approve. Because he really took care of me.”