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pets provide comfort on the grief journey

The Dog Days of Summer

August has arrived. After last winter’s cold weather and all the time we spent indoors during the pandemic, summer seemed a welcome friend. Yet it arrived with record-breaking temperatures in so many places. My heart goes out to all who are struggling with the effects of dangerous heat waves.

My father always called this hottest time of the year, the “Dog Days of Summer.” I noticed that Wikipedia refers to it as “the sultry days of summer.” Hmmm …

The term “dog days” originates back with the Romans, who assumed that when the bright star Sirius (known as the “Dog Star”) moved into a heavenly position closer to our planet, it resulted in a hotter summer.

I think the Dog Days are a good time to appreciate and acknowledge all the dogs, cats, and other animals who share our journeys. They accept us at our lowest, listen without judgment, and provide immense comfort. I’ve lost count of the times Alliance of Hope community forum members have posted about their pets, but it’s clear from those posts, that animal friends bring healing equal to – and often more powerful than – any other healing modality. Here are some of their posts: 

Our pets bring comfort:

  • “Since his suicide 6 weeks ago, she has been such a blessing. I feel without her I would be totally alone …. Thank you, God, for my four-footed blessing.”
  • “When I cry, he licks the tears from my face. He holds his paws around my neck as if he is hugging me.”
  • “I started telling my troubles to my new horse. I would throw my arms around his big neck and just let it all out. I soak his mane with my tears. …. My dogs also seemed to know that I was so sad. My Borzoi would stand up and put her arms around my neck. Animals know when we need that hug or that listening ear that never judges us or tells us it is time to stop feeling the grief. They just listen and let us hug them and cry.

Our pets grieve with us:

  • “The funeral for my nephew was held by a creek. All day long their dog had been running around the whole farm area. When the service started, he was still running but as the cremains fell into the spring head and washed over the moss-covered rocks, his running ceased. He came to the creek, stuck his nose in the water to sniff, then lay down on a large rock and stared at the spring head. He stayed fixed and staring and whining, eyes full of pain, until it was over, and we all left.”

And we grieve for them when they cross over:

  • “My beloved dog went to sleep on Friday and never woke up. I am absolutely heartbroken. I have been through so much with her. She saw me through his suicide, and then the death of my other dog. I feel utterly bereft, all these memories keep hitting me all the time, no respite.”

These “Dog Days of Summer are the perfect time to acknowledge and celebrate our animal friends. Would you like to join me? We have started a special thread on the Alliance of Hope forum just for that. If you’d like to share a photo or comment about the animals who have been important to you, click here.

Last, but not least – I hope that you remain cool during these ongoing heat waves and as always, I pray for your healing and that of the world.

Ronnie

About the Author

Ronnie Walker

Ronnie Walker MS, LCPC is the Founder and Executive Director of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors. She is a survivor of suicide loss.Read More »