The connection between our animals and us can be an incredibly strong and tenacious tether. When we lose a good friend — who just happens to be a pet — we begin a grieving process that can, at times, feel painful and never-ending.
What about the other side of the grieving dyad? Do our animal friends miss us when we die? As I was pondering that question, I happened upon this image someone posted on Facebook: A dog despondent in sorrow and collapsed on what appears to be the fresh grave of his human friend. It’s a touching image that speaks to the deep connection we share with our animal comrades.
I am reminded of our cat Jack who, before he died, would wait at the door for Janna to return when she was away visiting her family in Iowa. When she was off at work, Jack didn’t wait by the door for her to come home at night. However, when Janna was out of town, he would quietly long for her by sitting three feet from the front door, in a tense position, waiting for her to open the door. He would sit like that for hours and hours and hours.
I would try to talk to him and let him know that Janna was okay, but that she was going to be gone for a week, and that he might want to at least eat something or take a nap with me and let down his guard a little bit — but Jack would have none of that. He would just stare intensely at the door waiting for it to open.
I would bring him into the bedroom to sit with me. He would get right up and run back to watch the door that would not open.
Finally, after about three hours or so, something lizardly lit his mind, and he somehow realized Janna wasn’t going to be coming home any time soon, and he’d relax a little bit on the floor and wait for her. Then, a few hours later, he’d eat and drink a little bit. By the next morning, he’d be back hanging out with me.
It was always fascinating to watch Jack ignore Janna when she finally returned from her trips. He’d allow her to pet him, but he would not purr for her, or look her in the eye, and he didn’t stay in the same room with her for a day or two. Then, just like everyone else in her life, Jack would be unable to resist the lack of “Janna Love” and he’d return to her in every way — as if she’d never left his side.