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World’s Oldest Dog Dies, Many Mourn: Dealing with the Grief of Pet-Loss

Dealing with the grief of pet-loss is difficult, sometimes as hard as losing a human friend.
Three types of grief impact pet lovers: anticipatory, disenfranchised and the actual grief of loss.


On December 5, 2011 Pusuke, a beautiful mixed breed dog, died at age 26, in Japan. Sentiments from around the world poured in to offer condolences. Expressions of grief and mourning filled the posting boards of cyberspace.

“The grief of Pet-loss is real, important and shared by pet lovers everywhere. The human-pet bond is very strong” says Timothy J. O’Brien, M.S. Director of the Institute for Stress Management & Performance Improvement. “Grief is a major stress reaction to any catastrophic loss, and losing a pet companion can rival and even surpass the levels of grief experienced when losing a human friend.”

Can losing a pet impact a person as much as losing a human? Yes, the reason is, pet loss usually involves three distinct and powerful forms of grief: anticipatory, disenfranchised, and the actual grief of loss.

“Anticipatory grief comes from the apprehension about losing their pet. Disenfranchised grief occurs when friends and associates don’t understand the importance of the human-pet bond,” O’Brien added, “and the grief of actual loss occurs when they have to deal with the finality of death after their pet has passed.”

Pusuke lived a long life. However, because pets have shorter lives , at some point we must deal with the grief of Pet-loss.  “Grief is not a disease, and built into our human nature is the ability to survive major losses. Usually, with time, we recover and begin to live a normal life again. Never forgetting, but adjusting to our loss,” O’Brien said in closing.

Timothy J. O’Brien M.S. author of the “You will always be a part of me…A Guide & Journal for Grieving the Loss of Your Pet” a Grief Support Program, has been involved with Grief and Mourning issues since 1991. For 14 years, Tim was a columnist for Knight Ridder/McClatchy and has published more than 400 print articles. Contact Tim for an in depth, and informative interview.

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