Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Do dogs know about death?

I would dearly like to know how much an animal understands what is going on around him and in particular  about death. Death is entirely natural in the plant and animal world and we forget that we are animals at our peril. Each year we watch die back and renewal as part of the seasons but what happens in a dog's mind when the other animal he has shared his life with is no longer there. Do alarm bells ring somewhere in a gentle warning that nothing is forever and it could be his turn next?
I don't know...and if anyone does please tell me.
When Crispin was a puppy he had another golden retriever that he adored. I had been told that getting a puppy would extend the old dog's life and at first that seemed a most unlikely statement. Major, the old boy simply backed away from the bouncy pup who kept trying to make him play.
Crispin used to tumble over him and I worried for his arthritis but gradually a sort acceptance  became the norm and as Major grew into majestic old age Crispin became his willing nurse and keeper. He helped him up when he struggled. Every morning he cleaned his ears and eyes...he deferred to Major...he would never go in front of him or eat or drink from his bowls.
When Major got to the age Crispin is now his pain became too much for him to bear and the vet came out to the house to put him to sleep taking great care that the young dog was in a different room with one of my friends.
Crispin looked everywhere for him. They had always travelled curled up together in the back of my Discovery. The first time out after the death Crispin sniffed every square centimetre of the car...and he did the same to the house...
Even two years after the death Crispin would still bound up to a golden in the park or on the beach and then fall back disappointed when it was the wrong one.
I was reminded of all this this morning when he was clearly looking for Tosh. He did the outside  and then came inside and started again.
Bless him its had taken almost 6 years but I know he is missing a friend, a companion in crime when food was around. It felt very unnatural when I was cooking fish at lunch time not to give the odd prawn to Tosh who stayed at my side through out  the cooking process.
The vet offered us the ashes for the garden but we refused.
" The body is only an envelope." I explained "Once its empty it has no significance" Years of dealing with ashes has been part of daily life  here..so I am used to the whole process, no need to have a spot thats special.
All our animals have a place in our hearts and I am more surprised than I can say about how much I am missing that small but dominant character who yesterday quit his envelope for the celestial playing fields where his first Mum Netty was waiting  for him.  
Crispin is still here using his envelope....hopefully for some time yet before he joins all the other friends he has made in life.  And as someone wrote on the blog comment yesterday....if dogs and cats don't go to heaven then I don't want to go either.
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