Friday, December 14, 2012

Helping Bonded Pets Deal with Loss

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Patches and Xena: BFF's

Our Retriever mix, Xena, was nearly an only pet at the time we adopted her at our neighborhood PetSmart. Although we did have a kitty, Corey Lou, she was 18 years old and not exactly a bundle of playfulness. Xena's beautiful Golden Retriever mom was a show dog that had gotten outside during a heat cycle and, well, you can guess the rest of that story. 

A few months after Xena came to live with us, we decided she could use a housemate to keep her company during our absences. Instead of another dog, we felt a kitten would be well-received since she was still a puppy and had demonstrated a like for other fluffy felines she had met.

So off we went one day, back to the same rescue where we adopted Xena. They had a batch of kittens, cute as they could be, playing and tumbling all over each other to meet us. We had taken Xena along, hopeful that she would give us some insight into which kitten to select. Sure enough, as we introduced each kitten to her, we could see a significant difference in the first impressions occurring. 

Patches was last, and her predecessors in this process had not fared terribly well. Each had demonstrated some form of fear or dislike of Xena. Not Patches. She stood up tall and swatted Xena right across the snout as if to say "Let's get one thing cleared up right now; I'm in charge!" And that she was. Xena took an immediate liking to her, despite her spunky introduction, and so it would go throughout Xena's life with us. The two bonded almost instantly and played tag together for years, as if they were litter mates.

Following Xena's passing 2 years ago, Patches spent her days snoozing at the entrance to Xena's crate. She was on watch. Although she did search the house daily, it was always a fruitless task and she would then return to Xena's crate to stand guard.
Weekly Wag Button
Finally one day I had the lightbulb moment. I took Xena's crate down. Who knew that its presence was keeping Patches thinking that she would return? Not me, obviously. That oh-so-obvious change put Patches onto a new path. She is once again spending time with our family, napping in areas close to the other pets, rather than only at Xena's crate. It took a while, but she realized that without a crate there, Xena must be permanently gone too.

Patches has now bonded to Tanner. This took time, but his patience and calm demeanor with her has finally brought her around. Oliver, not so much. He has learned a lot about her lack of desire for play, although he still gives it the 'ole college try once a week or so. No luck! Until he gives her some space, she's not likely to get connected to him, but at least he understands the necessary manners he must employ in order to live with her and keep his nose intact. After all, we know she can take care of his snout with one swoop.

What's holding your bonded pet back from rebonding with you after the loss of another pet? Hopefully you'll take a close look at each and every symbol of the pet that was gone. Somewhere in that search you'll find the connection that will help you get your left behind friend back into your inner circle. Good luck!

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop hosted by Life with DogsTwo Little Cavaliers, and Confessions of the Plume. You are welcome to link up here, or check any of their sites for their rules of participation. Happy hopping! 


Sue Kottwitz said...

Great post. Our 6 yr old Jeffie still visits the graves of the two senior dogs we lost this year. Not a day goes by without seeing him sit or lie down there for awhile.

Gavin said...

Thanks for your great post as we have had to pet sit a few pets who have lost partners, and your post answers a few questions i had about there behavior.

GizmoGeodog said...

Murphy the Lab was my girl...then I brought poor beaten-down abused Cecil the GSD home from a business trip (long story there). Murphy accepted Cecil and Cecil looked to Murph as her guide, protector and teacher...They were inseparable for 7 years,with Murph as pack leader and Cecil as faithful follower. Then Murphy went OTRB...Cecil was lost....In another unplanned moment Bruno came into our lives...He was a (very) big goofy puppy, willing to be Cecil's slave in all things. For the first time Cecil assumed a pack leader role. Though she only with us for about another 6 months she took Bruno under her wing, teaching him the rules as Murphy had taught her. When she passed (& Bruno witnessed her passing) Bruno's personality changed as well...Instead of goofy puppy slave it was like he grew up overnight and became head of the household and chief protector of mom.

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Dawn said...

Sephi passed away when my husband was out of town on business. So it was just me and my Maya. I would have felt so alone if it wasn't for her. For the next three days or so, she either snuggled up with me on the bed or on the couch. Since Sephi and Maya weren't particularly close, I'm not sure if Maya felt the loss as keenly as I did. I suspect she snuggled with me for my comfort, not her own.

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