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About 6 years ago I lost my best friend. It was one of the most painful moments of my life. Max was a Pit bull rescued from the shelter by my then girlfriend. He was gentle, loving, caring, and a ham at the same time. He was… my son.

When I found out he was terminally ill with only days to live tears started flowing from my eyes like a river as I cried uncontrollably.

I’m sure Max was in tremendous pain, but you would never know it from his boldness. He acted like it was just another day. Ready to play and wanted to go for a walk. I always admired his strength not just physically but also emotionally.

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I remember taking him to my parent’s home, so they could say their last good bye. They were losing their “granddog” that visited them every Sunday.

I remember he flashed me a look that was an endearing blend of confusion and the reassurance that everyone would be okay because we were with him like normal. Two days later he crossed over the rainbow bridge.

When people never have a dog, they look at people mourning the loss of one like their overreacting. After all, it’s “just a dog”… right?

However, those who have loved a dog know the truth: Your own pet is never “just a dog”.

Research has confirmed that for almost all people, the loss of a dog is the same as losing a friend or relative. Some people have confided they’ve mourned more over the loss of their dog.

When a pet dies there’s no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service – to help us get through the loss of a pet. Because of this people feel a bit embarrassed to show too much public grief over a dead dog.

If other people knew how intense a bond can be between humans and dogs, the grieving process over losing a dog would be more accepted. Dog owners would be more acceptable of their pet’s death and most likely help them move on faster.

A Human – Animal Bond Like No Other

What is it about dogs that make humans bond very closely with them?

To start dogs have evolved over time to be specifically our companions and friends. For over 10,000 years dogs have adapted to living with us humans.

Anthropologist Brian Hare has developed the “Domestication Hypothesis” to describe how dogs transformed from their wolf ancestors into the socially skilled animals that we now interact with in very much the same way as we interact with other people.

Dogs provide us with such an unconditional love, they’re not critical, and they always give positive feedback. (As the old saying goes, “May I become the kind of person that my dog thinks I already am.”)

This happens to be no accident. Through generations dogs have bean bred to pay close attention to people and MRI scans show that dog brains respond to praise just as strongly as they do to food.

Believe it or not dogs can interpret human emotions from facial expression alone. Scientific studies also indicate that dogs can understand human intentions, try to help their owners, and even avoid people who don’t cooperate with their owners or treat them well.

Not surprisingly, humans respond very positive to the assistance, loyalty, and affection dogs provide. Just looking at dogs can make people smile.

Dog owners score higher on measures of well-being and they are happier, on average, than people who own cats or no pets at all.

Just Like a Family Member

In a recent study of “misnaming” it’s been revealed that dogs fit right in with the kids. For example, when a parent mistakenly calls a child by a sibling’s name. This indicates that the dog’s name is being pulled from the same cognitive part of the brain. So, if you have a child and you call him “Rocky”, you’re not alone.

It’s no wonder dog owners miss them so much when they’re gone. The loss of a dog can also seriously disrupt an owner’s daily routine more profoundly than the loss of most friends and relatives. For owners, their daily schedules – even their vacation plans – can revolve around the needs of their pets. Changes in lifestyle and routine are some of the primary sources of stress.

Often people who have lost a dog end up getting another one eventually. They miss the reassurance and unconditional love their dogs provided them.

So yes, I miss my dog. It’s been about 6 years and I’m still grieving in a way. But I’m sure that I’ll be putting myself through this ordeal again in the years to come.

I miss you and I love you Max!!

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