Pet Advice: Do Pets Grieve?

A Trick Dog Owners Don’t Want Their Pet to Have
Ask Dr. Watts - Dr. Michael Watts/Vet Care,

Q: I was told my dog has “trick knee caps.” Is this a serious condition? Do I need to do anything.

A: “Trick knee caps,” or patellar luxation, is a common birth defect in dogs. In affected dogs, the knee cap (patella) slips out of joint (luxates). A dog’s knee, or stifle, is located on the rear legs near the body. Counting the hip as the first joint, the stifle is the second joint down the leg. Normally, a long ligament holds the round patella in a V-shaped groove of bone. The patella acts like a pulley in redirecting force around the angle of the joint. It should be able to move slightly from side to side, but should not be able to come out of the groove. Dogs with patellar luxation have shallow bony grooves, excessively long ligaments, or both.

Mildly affected dogs often experience no symptoms at all. Frequently, the condition is detected by a veterinarian during a thorough physical exam when no abnormality has been noted by the dog’s family. Sometimes owners will notice the dog holding up a rear leg for several steps, usually after resting or during a quick run. The lameness will typically last only a few steps and then will spontaneously correct itself. Usually, there is little or no pain associated with the lameness.

More severely affected dogs can spend more time with their knee cap out of joint then with it in place. I have seen patients whose patella could not stay in its proper location at all. These dogs experience regular joint pain and usually have trouble standing up. Surgical stabilization of the stifle joint is warranted in these patients. The surgery involves making a deeper groove in the bone, replacing the patella, and tightening the ligament with sutures.

Although almost any dog may be affected by patellar luxation, most dogs with this condition are small or toy breeds. This is good news since affected dogs under twenty pounds rarely require surgical correction of the stifle.

Any patient with abnormal joints is at increased risk for osteoarthritis. It is common for dogs with patellar luxation to experience arthritis several years earlier than average. For this reason, I routinely recommend a lifelong joint supplement containing low molecular weight chondroitin and ASU for every patient with patellar luxation. The supplement strengthens the cartilage within the stifle, slowing damage. I also recommend keeping affected pets lean since excess weight will age the joint faster.

Q: There has been a baby bird fluttering outside near our bushes. It seems like she has fallen out of the nest. What should I do to care for her?

A: In late spring and early summer, many wild birds experience a fledgling stage of development. These birds are old enough to leave the nest, but still need the attention of a parent. Typically these fledglings jump around and practice flying, but usually cannot completely master the skill yet. Think of these fledglings as “bird teenagers.”

The mother will usually be keeping a pretty close watch over fledglings. They help them find food and avoid predators. Sometimes you may see a panicked mother bird trying to distract you if you walk to close to her offspring. It is important to leave the fledgling alone, so the mother continues to care for it. Keep your cats and dogs indoors or closely supervised if you have a fledgling in your yard. Many of these birds die from interactions with pets or because well meaning “rescuers” take them away from their mothers.

In Virginia, all wildlife legally belongs to the Commonwealth. Individuals are not allowed to care for wildlife other than to bring them to a veterinarian or licensed wildlife rehabilitator. These laws are for the protection of the animals and public health. If you suspect any wild animal is sick or injured, leave them in place and contact a veterinarian or animal control for advice.

Dr. Watts is a companion animal general practitioner and owner of Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care. He can be reached through or by calling 428-1000.

In Hot Car, 'Just a Minute' Can Be Deadly for Dogs

If you've ever left your dog in the car for "just five minutes" on a summer day, the officers of the Washington Humane Society want you to hear some cautionary tales.

"They all say the same thing: I never thought that this would happen," says Mitchell Battle, deputy director of humane law enforcement at the Washington Humane Society. "I was only going to be gone for two minutes."

But just running inside for a quick errand can be deadly to your pet - even if the weather isn't all that hot.

In one fatal incident Battle responded to, the temperature was only in the 70s. A woman stopped at home, parked in the shade and came out after what she said was 15 minutes. By the time officers got there, the shade had moved, turning the car into what officer Eve Russell calls "a solar powered Easy-Bake oven."

Everyone's opened a car door and been amazed by how much hotter it is than outside - but you may not realize exactly how hot a car can get. Check out the numbers at the Web site, a program of United Animal Nations. When it's 72 degrees, a car in direct sun can reach an internal temperature of 116. Even in the shade, a car can be 10 to 20 degrees hotter than outdoors, and cracking the window has almost no effect.

Veterinarian Cate Rinaldo, a volunteer with United Animal Nations, points out that dogs don't have sweat glands all over their bodies like humans do, so the main way they can cool off is by panting, which isn't very efficient.

Once a dog's body temperature gets over about 106 - normal temperature is around 101 - the result is "everything from nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, systemic organ failure, and it happens fast, within a matter of minutes," she says.

Summer is also vacation season, and the Washington officers are often called to cases where people travelling with their dogs tried to use the car to extend their stay by a few hours.

"They check out of their hotel at noon and they still want to go to the zoo or a museum, and they leave Fluffy in the car," says officer Ann Russell.

Remember that one more museum isn't worth the risk to your pet's life - and that cars are not the only place where dogs can get overheated. Rinaldo says that before she was a vet and knew of the dangers, one of her dogs collapsed from heat exhaustion after playing off-leash on a 75 degree day.

That dog survived, but not all are so lucky. One 90 degree day in the San Bernadino mountains, Andy Hoodward of Orange, Calif., was flagged down by a couple carrying their dog in a backpack.

"The woman explained that they had set out hiking in the morning but a couple of miles in, the dog had become lethargic, unresponsive and would neither walk nor drink," says Hoodward.

The couple were also in bad shape, and Hoodward drove them to a ranger's station, but it was too late for the dog, which died on the trip.

And officers say anyone can be the victim of inattention or miscalculation. Officer Ann Russell tells of one woman who worked with autistic children and was a volunteer guide dog puppy raiser - "the most responsible person you can imagine," she says. In an emergency with one of the children, the woman accidentally left a puppy in a car and it died.

Even indoors, it can get too hot for some animals. Battle tells of an elderly, overweight beagle that died of heat exhaustion in his own home; sadly, the house did have central air conditioning but the owners hadn't left it on since there were no people home.

Be especially careful if you confine your dog to a crate or one area of the house and he's not free to seek a cooler spot. If you leave your dogs outside, even on a patio or deck, make sure they have shade all day and remember that the sun moves. Use a tarp or awning to shade the spot, and perhaps reconsider whether your dogs might be happier indoors.

"Go out there barefoot and step on the concrete where your dogs are," says Battle. "It's not as comfortable as you think it is."


Hot Dog! Dog Statues Stolen from Ind. Art Exhibit
Chicago Tribune

LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Police have canine capers on their hands after the theft of two of the 41 life-size dog statues in Lafayette and West Lafayette as part of a fundraising project.

On Sunday, police recovered one of the two missing painted dog sculptures and arrested a Purdue University student for attempting to steal a third statue.

There’s a reward of up to $250 for the remaining lost dog. “Alfie the Alpha Dog” was taken from the front of the West Lafayette Public Library.

The “Dog Days of Summer” exhibits were installed last week and are bolted to concrete bases weighing several hundred pounds.


Information from: Journal and Courier,

Save 5% on Pet Supplies Orders Over $75

Pet-Sitting Professionals on the Rise
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald staff writer

Besides dogs and cats, Kitty Brevig has cared for birds, fish, chickens, ducks, hamsters, lizards, a horse, a snake, turtles and even an alligator.

"Once I was pet-sitting for a family, and I was cleaning out the cat box, when I heard someone say, 'It's poo poo.' I looked around and no one was there. It was the parrot," the professional pet sitter said.

"Another time with that same parrot, I couldn't find him anywhere. I checked everywhere and was building a panic. I finally found him standing in the shower in one of the bathrooms."

When traveling, pet owners have traditionally turned to neighbors, friends and relatives, or to professional boarders. But in recent years there's been a spike in the number of professional pet sitters like Brevig, who come to clients' homes.

Beth Stultz of Pet Sitters International said that organization has more than 8,000 members who serve an average of 191 clients each and perform 17.4 million pet-sitting engagements annually.

"This information comes from our 2008 State of the Industry Survey and is an increase from the 2006 results, which reflected an average of 126 clients per member business and approximately

8 million pet-sitting engagements per year," Stultz said.

Pet-sitting can range from about $17 to $65 depending on various factors like the number of pets and frequency of visits, said Janet Hantke, owner of Vallejo's Aardvark & Others Pet Sitting. That compares to kennel or veterinarian boarding,
which ranges from $15 to $35 or more per night.

After leaving her Chow, pit bull and Chihuahua in the care of her veterinarian, Dolores Gurule of Vallejo said she's decided a professional pet sitter is a better way.

"It's more one-on-one and they're usually in cages at kennels. Staying in their own home is less disruptive," she said.

Kennels can produce stress and expose animals to illnesses, but they also usually provide constant supervision and some animals "are boarded all the time and do just fine," said Bev Weishaupt of Bayside Veterinary Hospital.

It's a personal preference, agreed Benicia-Vallejo Humane Society official Peter Wilson, who opts for a pet sitter for his dogs."You have to feel comfortable having someone in your home while you're gone, that's one thing," he said. "I personally prefer a pet sitter, because our dogs don't get stressed out at being in a new environment."

The animal's size and temperament must be taken into account when deciding where or with whom to leave it, he added.

"Can the sitter handle your pet? That's one thing you need to know," Wilson said.

Not all pet sitters or dog walkers are created equal, experts say, and plenty can go wrong.

"They can leave the home unsecured, or lose the pet," said Brevig, a six-year professional animal care taker who owns Paws & Claws. "They can leave the house a mess."For one of her favorite clients, Brevig said she takes care of five dogs, who line up when they see her, to get their turn at a massage.

Finding the right fit in a pet sitter is like finding the right doctor or the right child care provider, she said.

"You need to get a good feeling about the sitter, but you also need to check references," she said.

Wilson agrees, suggesting that not only you, but also your animals, should feel comfortable with the sitter.

"You could have them try it out over a short period, like a weekend," he said. "They should come over a few times before you leave, so the animal is familiar with them."

The sitter should know whom to contact in an emergency, as well, Wilson said.

"They should ask about your vet, who to call in an emergency, and what your payment limit is in an emergency while you're gone," Wilson said. "And you should alert your vet, too, that you're going out of town and who will be caring for your pet."

The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters' nationwide referral network can be found at, or by calling (856) 439-0324.

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or

What the Dogs and Cats Taught Me
Baltimore Sun

Sometimes when I'm driving these days, I'll see a dog out for a walk with its owner and think: Is that Greyson? Could that be Scooter Rae? That bulldog looks just like Bosco.

That's the effect Unleashed has had on my life. I dream about cats and dogs now. I skip meetings at work, neglect laundry at home to write about pets.

The first thing I did after semi-recovering from a recent surgery was get back to the blog. My mother was staying with me at the time and said, "You're obsessed."

That makes it all the harder to tell you that I'm no longer going to be taking the lead here.

I've accepted a new position on the print side of the paper and need to give that my undivided attention. I'm leaving Unleashed in the excellent hands of Jill Rosen, who has been guest posting for the last week and who is the (very proud) owner of Leo Sesame and Milo Pumpkin.

I didn't want to go without saying thanks to all of you and without letting you know what fun you have made the last few months. When I look back on it now, I realize relaunching this blog (John Woestendiek, now of the entertaining ohmidog! blog, actually started it) was my way of not giving in to what Churchill called the black dog.

There was a lot in my life -- sickness, chemotherapy, surgeries -- pushing me in that direction. In the middle of my treatment, my sweet dog, Gracie, died, an experience I wrote about in my first post. (Some of you have said you'd like to hear more about her. You may get your wish in future guest posts by me.)

Every visit my oncologist asked, "How are your spirits?" They got a lift from writing about a cat wedding, a Rottweiler in a bathrobe and a Husky "saying" I love you. Fending off despair, I learned, is easier with dogs and cats in your corner.

I may not be as brave as Nala, a cat I met at the March for the Animals. Her motto, according to her owner, is: "I fear nothing." But I'm trying.

Your pets, and your wonderful stories about them, have been great medicine. Thank you, thank you. Please keep them coming. I'll be reading every day and guest posting when I can.

You all have inspired me to consider asking a question of my oncologist the next time I see him: Doc, do you think I'm healthy enough to get a dog?

I'll let you know what he says.

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Ahwatukee Minister Starts Pet Funerals
by Coty Dolores Miranda - Arizona Republic

Ahwatukee minister David Niles has officiated at more than a thousand Valley weddings, but his new venture is geared toward the four-footed, feathered and furry.

After hearing an National Public Radio segment on the growing pet funeral market, Niles, an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church who previously only did weddings, researched the Phoenix market and realized a niche was ready to fill.

He founded Arizona Pet Funerals.
"More people are realizing that Fido is part of the family and should receive the same kind of final respects accorded others," said Niles, an Arizona resident for 39 years, the past 13 in Ahwatukee.

Unlike his wedding ceremonies, which he's conducted throughout Maricopa County for more than 25 years, Niles says the pet funerals services will be written to fit the pet and the family's wishes, whether it be a "religious, secular, serious or humorous".

"It's not a one-size-fits-all," he said. "Each funeral is structured the way the family wants; each is unique."

Paying last respects to the family pet - whether a dog, cat, gerbil, iguana or cockatoo is an important moment of closure that can be done graveside, such as at Sunland Pet Rest in Sun City - Maricopa County's only pet cemetery, or at a memorial service, with or without an urn of ashes, says Niles.

He says he and his wife Barbara - who is his business manager, remember the angst whenever a beloved pet died.

"Through the years family and friends have lost their pets and we always tried to help them through the grieving process even though we didn't know about pet services then," said Niles

He even collects quotes and adages about pets for use in his services, including one of his favorites: "The reason a dog has so many friends is he wags his tail, not his tongue."

And pets abound in the United States. The Humane Society of the United States website quotes a 2008 survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association indicating 63 percent of American households include pets.

Making the leap from weddings to pet funerals for the dignified, white-haired minister isn't difficult because, he says, celebrating a pet's life and acknowledging the bond between pet owner and pet is important, and not viewed as a trivial matter.

"I know this will take a while before this catches on but I'm prepared for the long haul," says Niles who will conduct services countywide.

"But I think Arizona Pet Funerals can be very meaningful to people who loved their pets, and I'm glad to offer them this opportunity to help them through the grieving process."

Even as he waits for his first call to perform a pet funeral, Niles has already established his pro-bono guidelines - he will not charge for services to service, police or military animals.

Costs for Arizona Pet Funerals start at $150. For more information phone 480-706-0501.
Ambulance Service Gets Sick Pets to Emergency Care
By JAMIE GUMBRECHT - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Andrew Zbeeb’s ambulance will never be mistaken for those diesel-powered boxes flying toward Grady Hospital, lights blazing, sirens howling.

It’s smaller, first of all, a Chevy Tahoe with the words “Emergency Vehicle” painted in red.

Andrew Zbeeb started the service for owners unable to drive their pets and vets moving patients. His van has an amber light like wreckers’.Enlarge this image

Andrew Zbeeb takes pit bull Roxy to a veterinary clinic. Roxy was being boarded at Zbeeb’s pet-sitting and animal-training service in Kirkwood when Zbeeb noticed he was limping.

And then there are his patients: Roxy, with her bum shoulder, and Oliver, bloodied and woozy after an attack. Stymie could hardly breathe on his own and little Peanut just couldn’t stop vomiting. The pit bull, the Chihuahua, the one-eyed Solomon Island Eclectus parrot and the short-haired gray cat all needed Zbeeb’s speed and equipment. His ambulance is animals-only.

The survival rate on those four: 100 percent.

He started the service for owners unable to drive their pets in times of need, for vets transferring patients into specialized care and animals who might need more than a soft blanket and a chew toy.

Things furry, feathered and scaly are what Zbeeb knows best. He’s 28 and has been running Frogs to Dogs, a pet-sitting and training service in Kirkwood, for six years. In the span of a few weeks in 2007, two dogs in his care needed emergency treatment. Pemba, a 13-year-old shepherd mix with white fur and a twisted spleen, lived. Rocky, a boxer with a similar malady, got stuck in Atlanta traffic. As the dying pup whimpered in his back seat, he thought, “I can do better.” She survived only an hour after arriving at the vet.

“Better” cost Zbeeb $20,000, plus emergency vehicle insurance. He bought the Tahoe and retrofitted it with a mastiff-sized steel cage, muzzles, first aid supplies, GPS, oxygen tank and animal-shaped masks. His team doesn’t administer drugs but is trained in CPR and first aid, and veterinary technicians are available to ride along. He’s on-call around the clock, at $50 to $150 per hour.

Among his clients so far: a dog hit by a car, a cat fallen ill while its owner was stuck at work and Stymie, the parrot with an upper respiratory problem. He needed steady oxygen to make it from a Cobb County ER to an avian vet in Decatur. They realized a cat-sized oxygen mask fit nicely on his green feathered face.

“We’re all learning,” Zbeeb said, “even the vets.”

Nobody has exactly asked for animal ambulance service but local veterinarians have long struggled with home-care and pick-up requests from car-less pet owners or older clients who couldn’t lift their large animals. So far, Zbeeb says it’s gotten four to 12 calls per month.

“Quite honestly, I didn’t think there was going to be much of a niche for it,” said Will Draper, a veterinarian with Animal Emergency Center of Decatur.

But he was surprised by the number of clients they have referred to the ambulance and the variety of ways pet owners found it useful.

One Saturday night last summer, Anthy Petropoulos walked her Chihuahuas, Oliver and Elvis, a few blocks from home in Kirkwood. She spotted a loose pit bull moving toward them at a fast clip and within seconds, the larger dog snatched Oliver by his neck and shook him like a toy.

Petropoulos screamed and smacked the big dog but it wouldn’t let go. Zbeeb, who lived nearby and heard the commotion, ran outside to help. After they caught the frantic little black dog in a towel, Zbeeb drove to the nearest vet’s office while Petropoulos held an oxygen mask on Oliver’s white snout.

“Meltdown,” is how she describes it but she remembers that Zbeeb stayed calm. Her dog was in surgery for hours, as a surgeon cleaned eight puncture wounds to his 10-pound body.

“I was in no shape to be driving. I didn’t even know where the emergency vet was,” said Petropoulos, who now keeps the ambulance number in her phone. “It just happened so quickly, there was blood everywhere. When something like this happens, you don’t have common sense.”

At the time, Zbeeb had a temporary emergency light permit, which allowed him to roll through intersections and speed through traffic, just like an ambulance for humans. Then-DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones signed off on the permit, certifying he believed it was in the community’s best interest. The state commissioner of public safety subsequently denied it. Instead, Zbeeb got a permit for an amber light, a caution signal also found on wreckers and salt trucks.

“I’m sure it’s a good cause and I know people love their pets but at the end of the day, it’s a dog or it’s a cat. It’s not like another human being,” Georgia State Patrol Lt. Paul Cosper said. “It was not a proven need. They don’t just give these things out willy-nilly.”

Few animal ambulances exist in the United States and owners said they’d be surprised to find even one that’s classified like a human ambulance. Andy Berg owns 12 ambulances that serve Southern California’s dogs, cats, llamas, miniature horses and once, a dead Sumatran tiger. Expenses and state restrictions prevent him from seeking out a emergency vehicle permit, he said, and it’s not necessary most of the time.

Ben Brainard, an assistant professor of critical care at University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said it’s not clear yet whether time spent finding a veterinary ER, loading an animal into the car and driving can mean the difference between life and death.

“Until [more ambulance] services exist, we may not have a good idea,” Brainard said. “In the context of … having a trained driver getting you there 15 or 20 minutes faster, veterinary studies are too sparse.”

Zbeeb hasn’t appealed the state’s decision but still believes his experience and equipment keep pets and their owners safer — they don’t have to handle injured animals, drive frantically along unfamiliar routes or find hospitals they’ve never seen.

“We’re talking about life, a form of life,” Zbeeb said. “I did prove a need — the state doesn’t agree with my need.”

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Paying for Their Pets: Part 2
Reported by Frances Weller - bioemail -
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Americans spend over $10 billion every year in pet care - mostly out of pocket.

Two months ago, Echo Hackman was a healthy, vivacious two year old border collie who loved being adventurous.

One day, while his parents were downstairs preparing dinner in their three story beach house, Echo took his love for adventure three stories below - he jumped from a three story porch.

Echo landed in a bed of bushes. While the cushion probably saved his life, but he was badly injured.

Michelle and her husband rushed Echo to the emergency clinic in Wilmington. Echo had a broken leg that cost $2,600 to fix. Since the couple didn't have pet insurance their only option was to pay the entire amount out of their pocket.

That's the case with most pet owners.

While pet insurance is one of the fastest growing insurance fields, there are only about a dozen pet specific insurance companies in the entire country.

The policies vary in price as do the pay-outs.

Dr. Ned Williams is a Wilmington pet surgeon who specializes in trauma operations, and the more complicated surgeries such as removing cancerous tumors.

The average cost for his surgeries? $1,500.

Even if a client has pet insurance, they have to pay up front and wait for a reimbursement. There are no guarantees the policy will pay if your animal gets sick or injured.

In Michelle's case, it probably would have paid to have insurance, but that's not an option now.

Echo is now several weeks into the healing process. He comes in once a week to have his bandages changed by Dr. Williams.

While he won't ever walk the same, his prognosis is good. Michelle says for this four legged family she'd come out of pocket all over again.

If you are considering pet insurance be sure the policies cover illness, accidents, and optional routine care, and chose a plant that covers the exact cost - not an estimation.

Below is a list of pet insurance agencies in the United States:

Veterinary Pet Insurance
Purina Care
Pet Assure
Vetinsurance US
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
Embrace Pet Insurance
Petshealth Care Plan

Do Pets Grieve? The Question Hits Home After Loss of Rufus
Sharon L Peters - USA Today

Jasper, my mixed-breed, seemed glum and, well, not quite right. Gus the cat was lump-like.

After a few days of this, I couldn't help but wonder if my pets' unusual behaviors — similar to mine recently, to be honest — were driven by the same thing driving mine: grief.

Our wonderful old Malamute mix, Rufus, died six weeks ago. And while everyone is improving with each passing day, for the first three or four weeks ours was a bleak house.

This seemed a good time to find out if, in fact, as I've often heard, animals grieve when death takes an animal that has shared their lives.

I called Suzanne Hetts of Animal Behavior Associates in Denver. She's a Ph.D and certified applied animal behaviorist, the sort of expert that trainers turn to when they're dealing with inexplicable or intractable issues, the sort who keeps up with all manner of animal-behavior literature and research.

When I pose the do-pets-grieve question, her answer is instant. "It's possible they do."

It's also possible, she adds in a heartbeat, that they don't. "We just don't know for certain."

Hetts understands that at this point, millions of pet owners would beg to differ, convinced Fluffy was grief-stricken for months after losing her pet pal.

Hetts respects that belief. But she's one of those rare experts who doesn't mind saying she can't be certain about something if absolute evidence doesn't exist.

She has seen what she believes may be grief, or what she terms "separation distress," among some surviving pets when one has died. But that reaction is far from universal. "I've seen everything from some reaction for a short period of time to absolutely no reaction."

She's certain about one thing, though. Even if grief does ensnare some pets, "grief in animals doesn't consist of all the same components as grief in humans." Pets, for example, don't wallow in the regret aspect so common in people — that "I wish I would have or not have done this or that when the person or animal was alive," she says.

"Animals just don't question the quality of the relationship they had with the deceased."

A big reason Hetts isn't 100% certain about the grief-in-animals thing is that there can be other explanations for altered behavior among surviving pets, she says. Perhaps they're responding to the sadness among the humans, changed routines or the disappearance of social rituals they shared with the now-gone animal.

Consider this: My hyper-sensitive Jasper, in the days after Rufus died, didn't eat well, wasn't as bouncy on walks. It would be easy to assume he was depressed, as he had spent virtually every minute of 42 months with Rufus.

Maybe he actually was grieving the loss.

But he almost certainly picked up on my misery, as well. I remember the morning after Rufus died, I hooked Jasper to my two-pronged dog-walker leash and literally gasped when we set off because the leash attached to only one dog was too light, not right. Jasper wouldn't have missed that, or the sadness that settled around me like a fog.

And different routines? Yes. Our walks were shorter as I avoided Rufus' favorite routes and spots. I became less rigid about feeding schedules.

Jasper no longer blasts into the backyard with the enthusiasm he once did, when Rufus would stand and bark encouragingly as Jasper ran figure-8's around him.

The dampened appetite and energy could possibly be explained this way: The eagerness with which each dog tackled food bowls and the morning yard routines may have been "socially facilitated behaviors," Hetts says, revved-up behaviors that one dog fanned in the other. "Two dogs can definitely feed on each other's excitement."

And when that back-and-forth vaporizes, "maybe the remaining animal is a little less excited, but that doesn't necessarily mean that animal is depressed. He's just reverting to his own personal level of excitement."

Then there's Gus, who stuck like glue to Rufus' side in his final days and who seemed bereft, unwilling to accept comfort when Ruf died.

Interestingly, that cat took up round-the-clock residence for nearly a month on the Oriental carpet in the entrance foyer that had been Rufus' command post. Maybe Gus wanted to be close to Rufus' scent, Hetts says, maybe he was clinging to the final remaining vestige of his pal. It also is possible, she offers, that Gus had long coveted that spot, it being ideal for observing all that transpires on the first floor or in the front yard.

I don't find these possible alternative explanations for my pets' behaviors — which indicate they may not be taking Rufus' absence nearly as hard as I am — at all upsetting. Frankly, I think many folks attach human-like explanations to too much of what pets do, almost as if dogs and cats would be better if they were more like us. I think the reverse is probably closer to the truth.

Anyhow, knowing for sure whether pets are grieving, responding to the household sadness or simply settling into a new reality may not be very important, Hetts says. If they're behaving differently, you should make sure there isn't an underlying health problem you've overlooked. Also, try to keep routines pretty solid while looking for new things the animal might enjoy doing with you.

I'm working on it. It takes time.

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