The Phenomenon of Grieving Dogs: the Ultimate Loyalty

August 3, 2011
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In the face of disaster, danger, and death, some dogs live up to their reputations as man’s best friend with heart-wrenching acts of loyalty. Just last week in California, Kirby, a small black dog whose owner recently died, went missing from his new home. The little pup was found soon after sitting by his owner’s grave, having walked miles to find it. “Dogs go through grief, just as we do,” said Sarah Wilson, an animal behavior expert, in People. “It’s all a part of being attached and loved.” Here are eight more dogs whose courageous and loyal actions say more than words:

1) Unknown: Standing guard

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After Japan’s devastating earthquake in March 2011, reporters videotaped a shaking, mud-splattered spaniel sitting next to another dog, which is lying, hardly moving, next to him. The healthier dog refuses to leave his friend and stands guard, sometimes pacing. The dogs were eventually rescued and taken to medics. The video received 10 million hits on YouTube with comments from dog lovers pouring in: “That dog is a better person than most humans,” wrote one. “Loyalty is the best word to use when you describe a dog. Truly, man’s best friend is a well-deserved title,” wrote another.

2) Leao: Keeping vigil

In January 2011, floods and landslides ravaged Brazil, outside Rio de Janeiro. One of the most “gut-wrenching” photos to emerge from the tragedy showed a mixed-breed dog, Leao, lying patiently by the fresh grave of his owner. While news of the fatal landslides spread, it was the image of this lonely, grief-stricken dog that really put a “face on just what a tragedy the country [was] facing,” said Sasha Brown-Worsham at The Stir.

3) Spot: Faithfully waiting

While Wayne Giroux was working away at his lawnmower repair shop, his dog, Spot, waited faithfully for his return every day at the same street corner near their home in Lone Oak, Texas. After Giroux was killed by a drunk driver in June 2010, Spot continued to wait for him. Five months later, the dog still waited, and Giroux’s son, Paul, said he didn’t think the dog would ever give up.

4) Zelda: Looking for her boy

Joshua Reed rescued a sweet, rust-colored dog named Zelda from the road after she was hit by a car. From that moment on, the two were inseparable, said Marci Reed, Joshua’s mother. In 2009, just three years after their chance meeting, 15-year-old Joshua was killed in an ATV accident. Months later, the dog could be seen roaming the Indiana farm roads near the family’s home. “She’s without her boy,” said Marci Reed, “She just sniffs all over looking for her boy.”

5) Clara: Struggling to comprehend

After actress Brittany Murphy died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in December 2009, her Maltese, Clara, was visibly devastated. “One of the saddest things is that Clara has looked everywhere for Brittany and can’t find her,” said Simon Monjack, Murphy’s husband, in People.

6) Unknown: Dodging traffic

This “rather unbelievable” video that surfaced in December 2008 showed one dog’s heroism in the face of danger — and oncoming traffic. After a dog is hit by a car on a freeway, another dog dodges cars and drags his severely injured friend off the highway to safety.

7) Cash: Starving to protect

Jake Baysinger, a 25-year-old Colorado man, had been missing for months in 2008 when, in August, his German Shepherd, Cash, was found roaming the Colorado plains. The dog led searchers to Baysinger’s body. He had reportedly committed suicide, and Cash stayed by his side for six weeks. The dog was badly dehydrated and very thin, and authorities said it was a miracle the animal survived. But his presence prevented Baysinger’s body from being attacked by coyotes.

8) Squeak: Refusing to leave

In March 2002, a 51-year-old farmer named Terry Ford was brutally killed in Zimbabwe. Sitting beside the mutilated corpse was the man’s devoted dog, a 14-year-old Jack Russell Terrior named Squeak. It took family members an hour to coax the dog away: “He was crying when the body was found and he is still crying now,” said one friend of the family.

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