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Why overcoming the death of a dog is so complicated

Why overcoming the death of a dog is so complicated

January 29, 2023

It may be difficult for those who have never had a pet to understand, but the death of a dog can affect more than a person's with which there was a close and practically daily treatment, or at least comparable to the pain of that type of mourning.

Why does this happen? After all, from an evolutionary perspective it does not make much sense: we dedicate time and effort to maintain an affective bond with a species that is not ours and, when the animal dies, we also sacrifice part of our well-being to mourn its death.

Maybe this doubt is wrongly raised. Having a friendship with a dog does not mean following a cost-benefit strategy in which we take care of the animal to obtain a product in exchange. That is, perhaps, what would happen if a dog were just that, a dog. But it's not like that: our partner is much more than a pet.


What makes dogs special

There is something that distinguishes dogs from the rest of animals that have traditionally been cared for and domesticated by humans: they have had a long time to evolve. In almost every way, the domestic dog has been transformed into the perfect companion , an animal that, despite not being able to think in an abstract way that we have, is capable of changing its behavior in the face of death or the prolonged absence of its faithful friend.

How to forget, for example, the case of Hachikō, the Akita dog who spent the last 9 years of his life to stay at the train station for which his master left not to return due to his death.


What makes this animal unique, and what makes its loss so painful, is that they spontaneously create bonds of affection with other species without the need for special training. In fact, it has been proven that the simple fact of looking into the eyes of a dog for long periods It makes your brain begin to behave as does the human being who keeps his eyes fixed on his eyes: oxytocin, the hormone of love, begins to be produced in large quantities, and both the human being and the can coordinate this Hormone cycle

  • Related article: "Can love exist between species?" Research supports "yes" "

The evolution of the human's best friend

Some biologists and anthropologists, like Brian Hare, believe that the domestic dog has evolved from the species of the wolf to survive the side of our species leaving behind its aggressiveness and territorial character.


The gregarious character of the wolf has been preserved , but throughout the 10,000 years of history that have passed since the first domestication of the dog these animals have begun to develop other psychological characteristics that have brought them closer to us: they have become more curious than reserved, more playful than hostile, more tolerant to change and, therefore, much more likely to learn new things from the hand of another species.

In a way, a human characteristic, the possibility of creating societies and transforming the environment, has served to modify the DNA of a part of the population of wolves, making these animals find their place first in the tribes and then in civilization.

The duel for pets

Knowing all of the above allows us to better understand why the death of a dog affects us so much. Basically, because because of its spontaneous nature and its ignorance of sophisticated social norms , the buts have become the perfect friends and companions.

They are neither individualistic enough not to react in any way to human presence or even avoid it, nor human enough to worry about their social image, fall into prejudice or stereotypes or manipulate trying to win the friendship of someone to change a long-term goal.

When a dog dies, we are losing a being that offered us a company totally based on the here and now, in the small moments, and that appreciates all forms of spontaneity without worrying about what others are going to think. In many ways, Dogs allow us to have someone's friendship without having to give up who we are in our private life.

It is likely that many other people do not understand that pet mourning is especially hard in cases where it is a dog that has died, and in some cases they may secretly think that we are acting theatrically. However, it is worth knowing that feeling a deep emotional pain is totally normal and legitimate in those cases, and that nothing and nobody has the right to question the authenticity of the moment.


The Grieving Process: Coping with Death (January 2023).


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