Dogcharmer: Loss hits hard

Golden misses her soulmate as much as her owners do.


Dear Tom,

I have not seen you at Trade Winds lately.

We are the couple with two Goldens, Chloe, 6, and Bonnie, 14 and a half. They have been together since Chloe was a puppy.

Sadly, Bonnie died suddenly this past Wednesday. Along with our anguish and moping about, Chloe seems to have picked it up also. She seems very flat.

Is this normal? Can you suggest anything we can do or just wait it out?

Appreciate your comments,

Dear Al,

I’m sorry for your loss. I know how it feels. In answer to your question, yes, this is normal. It’s not just that she misses her soulmate, Bonnie, she’s also taking her cues from you guys. There’s no domestic animal that denotes the body language of a human better than a dog. I’ve seen it on searches. A search dog loves his work, it’s a great game to him or her. I’ve entered a small trailer in the woods in Pennsylvania, being used as a base of operations for a search for a missing 14-year-old boy during a bad snowstorm. Inside the trailer, besides the cop giving me info on the boy and my search grid, was the boy’s mother and other family members. The moment the door closed behind me the vibe hit me like a slap in the face. I got there about 10:30 at night and the missing boy got separated from his dad and uncle at about 2 in the afternoon, and the storm was now being called a blizzard. Expectations were grim and the only sound in the place was the mother crying softly. The search partner I was assigned was a local fireman and hunter who knew the woods pretty well, and also knew the missing boy. When he met my dog Michelle, he was clearly depressed as he stated flatly, “If we find anything, it’ll probably be a dead frozen kid.”

Michelle loved searching so much she almost always had a FRAP period in anticipation of the words “Go Find.” It stands for “frenetic random activity period,” which is basically a happy energy release. She would run like an idiot in a huge circle two or three times and then come and sit in front of me, ready for the words, “Go find.” This time there was no sign of any kind of happiness. No joie de vivre. She was mopey compared to other searches, which I attributed to the weather at the time. However, up until then the Go Find game was so much fun that she never cared about any kind of weather when it came to searching.

As handler’s search dogs find dead body after dead body during a disaster search, the dogs will reflect the handler’s glum and heavy-hearted attitude. I was called for 9/11 but didn’t go because Michelle was pushing 14 years old then and not capable, but I did speak to one of the K-9 units who was there. He said the dogs were as depressed as the handlers.

When the time came to euthanize the beautiful spirit and life of our Cavalier King Charles, Tri, rest assured that he died as happy as could be with his tail wagging furiously while eating a chocolate bar. Had we moped about and cried before and as we were bringing him to the vet, he would have been depressed and terrified. We mourned privately before and after the vet appointment, but acted happy as we could on the way to the vet. Not easy, but worth it for the dog.

Al, you said it yourself. Chloe is just reflecting your anguish and moping about. The sooner you “put on a happy face” and play games with her and take hikes with her, the sooner she will get over her despondency over the loss of Bonnie. Al, mourn until you can’t mourn anymore, but try to hide it from Chloe as best you can.

My condolences,
Dog Charmer Tom

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