By Sherry Bennett-Nichols

I read many years ago that animals have the capacity to grieve. This idea was not commonly believed or accepted at the time. The article also said that if at all possible, during times of loss, allow the pet to see the departed pack member. Ever since, when a pet has passed away, I have tried to do that, and it truly seems to help the animals understand that their pack is changing.

We lost a very important member of out pack last October when my husband Ed was killed in a motorcycle accident on the way to work. From the time I received the call on Wednesday until that Saturday, our Pyrs Sebastian and Madlyn were out of sorts. My sister was the first to notice how much barkier they were. Even though they never seemed to look for Ed, they knew something was wrong and were on high alert.

On Wednesday, I brought Ed’s clothes home and hung his jacket on the chair he always sat in. I left the clothes sit on the floor in the bag so Sebastian and Madlyn could smell them. I called Martha, and she graciously offered to help me with the dogs so I could take them along with Ed’s children to see him before he was cremated. Martha met us there.

Sebastian didn’t want to enter the building: I believe he could smell all the death that passed through those walls. Madlyn went right in. Martha took Sebastian in first and stood him up so he could see Ed. Sebastian reacted calmly. When Martha stood Madlyn up, Madlyn recognized Ed and wagged. Then she realized something was wrong, and she wanted down. She turned her back to him. Sebastian then wanted to smell the blanket covering Ed, and Madlyn came back over and joined in the smelling. Martha then took the dogs out while we said our good-byes. Sebastian and Madlyn laid by the van in the shade and waited calmly. They seemed to understand.