A Dog’s Mourning

I’ve recently been told that the body doesn’t differentiate between physical and mental stress. Stress is just stress. And, over time, it can change the mind’s chemistry depending on how much stress you’re dealing with on a consistent basis. I imagine it’s the same for animals. The dog we inherited from Mom, Cuckoo—no, we didn’t name him, and, yes, he’s certifiably nuts—has exhibited a number of signs of mourning that didn’t click with me at first because of my own mourning.

Cucks—one of many nicknames for him that include Dumbass, White Dog, Nut Job, and Snowflake (this last one comes compliments of Ralph’s friends)—is originally a rescue dog. We don’t know much about his original owner, but he was rescued from a friend of Mom’s many years back. That’s how Mom got to know him. Mom later adopted him when her friend ended up in a nursing home.

Cuckoo adapted well to the house with Mom and Dad. He’d been there many times, knew me, and he actually provided a canine distraction for Dad, who had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Mom took Cuckoo up to visit his previous owner and they used to chuckle about the dog walking in, taking a look around, then wanting to leave and go back home. He was very nonchalant.

Then Dad died and Cucks was there during Mom’s mourning. She concentrated on him and through her love of caring for this dog, created some delightful bad habits we continue trying to break him of here. Did he grieve for my father? Probably. I didn’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Plus he had mom and became a little attention monger.

Then Mom moved into the new house and Grandma moved in with her. Cuckoo used to go into Grandma’s bedroom each morning and sleep on her bed for a bit while she drank her coffee and watched TV. He’d meander in and out of there during the day, especially if Mom ran errands, and this new situation gave him two people to get attention from. Grandma passed and Mom had her first stroke, so I started staying at the house with him because I thought it would be easier on him. One of three people would come by the house and let him out during the day while I was at work, and he still slept on Grandma’s bed and had the run of the house. This allowed him to continue with some semblance of what he was used to.

I took him to see Mom a couple of times when she was in the hospital. I’m pretty sure he knew things were not good. I’m also pretty sure he knew when she passed. I’d moved him into our house by then because it became easier for me, especially with my job. He was forced to adapt to not having the run of a house during the day, is not allowed on the furniture, and doesn’t receive the same amount of attention he did previously.

Cuckoo accompanied me to Mom’s house several times while we’ve started emptying it. And while he was overjoyed to be able to jump on beds and furniture again, he also watched strangers enter a place they hadn’t before and carry things off that were a part of his life with Mom and Grandma. I think it was early December the last time I took him over there with me, and it will be the last.

I don’t do this out of anger or meanness. I do it because Cuckoo was inconsolable for several days after. He just, in my opinion, doesn’t need to see his world dismantled further. He remains excessively needy, doesn’t understand there’s work time and play time, but has done extremely well in terms of not jumping up on furniture. There are days he acts and looks sad, and nights I have to wake him up from a bad dream. He and Ralph have had their “this-is-how-it-is” speech and Cuckoo seems to understand where he fits in within the household, so there’s that.

This is a time of mourning for me, my aunt, my husband, and Mom’s friends. This is also a time of mourning for Cuckoo. Dogs feel. They know joy. They know sorrow. They know anger. They know surprise. They know shame. They know excitement. And we know when they need time to grieve too.

Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, and sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant.

7 Responses to “A Dog’s Mourning”

  1. Bambi Armeni says:

    Kris you said that perfectly….
    yes pets have minds, thoughts , feelings and memories! Love and attention will bring him through all the upheaval… as well you will also!

  2. Shelly Neault says:

    After John died, Maddie (do you remember our buff cocker spaniel?) mourned him until the day she passed. She never stopped hoping that when the front door opened it would be him. It’s very hard because they don’t completely understand. I just gave her lots of love and made her last years as good as possible. Take good care of Cuckoo for your Mother! ❤️

    • Kristoffer says:

      Of course I remember Maddie! She was a sweetheart. =) I know Cuckoo will mourn Mom for a very long time, but he seems to do extremely well when Ralph and I are together with him.

  3. Jeff says:

    Beautifully said, my friend.

  4. Martha Swartz says:

    Wonderfully written.
    Yes pets do grieve, I’ve seen it myself.
    Sending all of you big hugs.
    Everyone needs their own time to grieve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *