I found some compelling stories that answered, “Yes!” to the question, “Do animals grieve?” This story about Pixie is in my Amazon bestseller, Peace in Passing: Comfort for Loving Humans During Animal Transitions.
Some people have written about how animals are always “in the now.” There is no looking back or looking forward.
Even certain scientists have proposed theories that animals do not have memories or emotions. They are simply organic machines that react to whatever stimulus comes along.
This seems shortsighted. I wonder if these people have had a fulfilling relationship with their animals. If they’ve ever gotten beyond their humancentric view to fully “see” the being and notice the experience that being is having.
How could animals not grieve?
When a companion has been a part of an animal’s life for years, how could that animal not notice that that companion is gone? That the routines they experienced together, for better or for worse, are no longer part of their life? Of course, they notice! In some situations, it is clear to me animals really can miss their people or their animal family members.
Pixie: a wild horse grieves
I came across this story of a man who experienced wild horses saying goodbye to one of their own.
In his blog, How wild horses deal with death and grief: A rare insight, William E. Simpson shared he and his wife’s poignant experiences of their friendship with a herd of wild horses on the Oregon-California border.
Mr. Simpson found Pixie, a mare who was a special friend, dying from a life-ending accident surrounded by her herd and other herds. It’s worth reading the whole story as long as you have hankies close by.
Here’s the horse-to-horse grieving that Mr. Simpson witnessed:
“And there, standing over her [Pixie] was a majestic guardian, a single bachelor stallion who Laura and I had named Red Sox a few years before. He was audibly crying over her lifeless body; making a haunting sound I have never heard a horse make before; a soul-piercing sound that I will never forget. It was like a whinny but with a hallowed, sad tone. This beautiful young stallion was one of Pixie’s playmates as she grew up … now he was the sentinel over her remains, lamenting her loss. I looked at him and asked and he moved back allowing me to go to Pixie’s head to say my own goodbyes. When I was done and moved away, he moved back to where he had stood, directly over her.”
Even if you’re not sure that your animals have an affectionate relationship, trust that they are grieving.