Tears for pets often easier than for humans

As Queen Elizabeth grieves for the last of her beloved corgis, it is worth remembering that people can be more emotionally attached to their animals than close relatives  

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 5:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 5:46am

The British queen is grieving over the passing of the last of her beloved corgis aged 14. I bet she hurt more over Willow – the 14th generation descended from the first corgi, Susan, given to Elizabeth for her 18th birthday – than the death of Diana.

“The queen has mourned every one of her corgis over the years, but she has been more upset about Willow’s death than any of them,” a Buckingham Palace staff member was quoted as saying.

Five facts about corgis, favourite dog of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth

I don’t mean to be callous. The fact is that people can be more emotionally attached to their pets than close relatives. 

When my puppy Snowball died from poisoning 10 years ago, I cried many times. When my two elderly parents passed away – quite peacefully and painlessly – several years ago, I didn’t shed a tear.

So much for my filial piety, or rather the lack thereof, for which I deserve to be condemned eternally to a Confucian hell. Long afterwards, I still re-examined the sequence of medical decisions my vet and I made that I believe not only lessened Snowball’s chances of survival but prolonged his suffering.

When my wife was 14, her dog Ah Choy, aged 11, was very sick. She got up early to be the first in line at a nearby SPCA clinic. But she didn’t know Ah Choy, her lifelong companion since he was a puppy, was so ill the vet insisted on taking him away to be put down humanely.

To this day, my wife remembers every minute and every frame of that morning as in a film. I have read that’s how people who suffer from post-traumatic stress relive the primal incident that causes the mental disturbance.

Queen Elizabeth heartbroken over death of Willow, her last corgi

“Unfortunately, the loss of a pet is not recognised consistently by friends, acquaintances or colleagues as a significant or authentic occasion for bereavement,” wrote the authors of a study published in 2009 in the journal Perspectives in Psychiatric Care.

The researchers from the University of Hawaii’s animal science department found that in a surveyed sample of grieving pet owners, 30 per cent reported grief that lasted six months or longer while 12 per cent experienced the death as a major life disruption with long-lasting emotional impact.

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People should not feel ashamed to grieve for their beloved pets. Maybe you love them as much as people or even more so. Nothing wrong with that!