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Published April 06, 2012, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Animals who cry common

Dear Dr. Fox: I am writing in reference to your article about animals crying. I have four Chihuahuas: two 7-year-olds and two 5-year-olds (they are a mother, father, son and daughter). My husband retired three years ago, and since then, our dogs have bonded to him more than ever.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I am writing in reference to your article about animals crying.

I have four Chihuahuas: two 7-year-olds and two 5-year-olds (they are a mother, father, son and daughter). My husband retired three years ago, and since then, our dogs have bonded to him more than ever.

Every time my husband leaves the house, our 7-year-old female, Monica, sits at the back door looking forlorn and showing signs of tears. My husband recently went on a weeklong trip to Texas, and Monica sat at the back door for several hours each day, hanging her head and crying. I assume she missed my husband.

When I approached her, she gave me hateful looks and skulked off to be alone. She waited for him at the garage door, then she’d sit on his favorite chair until bedtime. Her eyes were wet until he returned. When he got home, she was ecstatic – dancing, prancing and squealing. She demonstrates these emotions every time he is gone, whether it’s for five minutes or five days. My other three dogs were not as sad as she was; I think she missed my husband more than I did. – L.G., Portsmouth, Va.

Dear L.G.: I know that many readers will appreciate your letter confirming that some grieving dogs will get watery eyes and shed tears.

In humans, grief is recognized as an emotional disorder with varying degrees of severity, just like depression. I would make the same medical claim for animals, and I would distinguish this condition from separation anxiety, where there is often more agitation and destructive behavior.

Like many grief-stricken people, animals – from dogs to horses to elephants – can lose the will to live. They withdraw from social interaction, sleep more and refuse food and attempts to provide comfort and relief. Psychotropic drugs such as Prozac, injections of appetite- stimulating vitamin B-complex and physical activity and interaction with familiar, friendly animals can help ameliorate the grief.

Metaphysically, grief is a breaking of the heart or spirit, a psychological reaction to the trauma of close emotional connections being severed. This dispirited condition can lead quite rapidly to death in susceptible individuals, human and nonhuman alike, if not recognized and appropriate intervention initiated.


Dear Dr. Fox: Thank you so much for your concern for octopuses. I have deep empathy for all animal life. I found a wormlike creature on the newspaper in my nursing home room and took it back outside to carry on with its life. I put out pet food nightly for a local opossum. I also have a lovely feline. I think it is important to do our best to help God’s creatures. – B.H., Florissant, Mo.

Dear B.H.: Did that edition of your newspaper with the stowaway from the wild also have my column in it?

Many readers will identify with your active compassion for all creatures. Children learn how to care through example. Seeing parents gently catching and releasing bugs, spiders, worms or other wild creatures – rather than automatically killing them – is the best education.

The importance of growing up with a companion animal such as a dog or cat is something I cannot stress enough, especially when proper parental example fosters patience, understanding and caring. Lacking such experience and example, children may suffer from what I term “animal and nature deprivation syndrome”: They may grow up to have neither interest in nor respect for other living beings. For more details, see my new book, “Animals and Nature First.” When we elevate the environment and other animals to the level of equality for consideration, we elevate our own humanity.


Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

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