The bond that develops between people and animals can be as strong as the bond between other family members. There are a number of reasons why this is the case; for example the average age for having children has increased. Statistics show that over the last 4 decades the average age of a first time parent has risen by 4 years with the average first time mother being 30 years old and first time fathers being 33.
My own experience of the Human Animal Bond
As a man I like statistics but they do make for dry reading. But I can relate to the stats at a personal level. My wife and I delayed starting a family until our early 30s. Before then we decided to get a pet cat when we finally moved into our own home; my wife called him Tommy – I know not very original Tommy the tom cat! The bond that she had with him was amazing, in fact we both loved him a lot. But for her the bond was more like mother and child and when we were unlucky enough to lose him to the dreaded killer that is traffic, I saw my wife’s heart break. Our loss hit us both harder than expected, but it took my wife a long time to come to terms with the loss. I am happy to say now that we look back with fondness tinged with a little sadness at our short time with Tommy.
Businesses also recognise the Human Animal Bond
You can also see evidence of how strong the human animal bond can become. All you need to do is look at the level of merchandise that is available for both cats and dogs. Another statistic for you; us Brits spent more than £4.6bn on our pets in 2015. The selection of products is as wide and diverse as anything you can imagine… from dog beer to cat clothes, I could add a bunch of funny pics… but rather than do that I suggest you search the internet for pirate cats.
The Human Animal Bond goes way beyond simple pet ownership
On a more serious topic; some people depend on service dogs for their very mobility. The bond that grows between a service dog and their handler is a deep and enduring bond. I can only imagine the level trust that must exist between animal and human where a visually impaired person relies upon a dog to cross the road safely.
Emotional service dogs naturally show a level of empathy that many people struggle with when supporting a person suffering from anxiety or depression. With bond as strong as this it is little wonder that it is becoming more recognised that a bereaved owner will often feel the same strength of emotion when they suffer pet loss.
Pet Loss & Bereavement
“Although it may not seem like it straight after you lose your pet, and the grief is at its most raw, most pet carers agree that it is better to have loved and lost a companion than never to have known how wonderful the human-animal bond can be.”
Shailen Jasani MA VetMB MRCVS Founder of The Ralph Site not-for-profit site offering support to bereaved pet owners.
When a person dies ceremonies, such as burials or cremations, may provide closure and can help with the grieving process. Families come together to say goodbye and to grieve. It also provides an opportunity to offer or receive support.
For those that are experiencing pet loss emotions can become muted or bottled up as friends, family, or colleagues may not appreciate or understand the full depth of loss you experience. This can make the grieving process harder; it is important that you accept that it is totally natural and that grief is nothing to be ashamed of. You will always miss your departed pet, the raw emotions you feel today will subside leaving happy memories; possibly tinged with sadness.
Dignified Farewells and Individual Pet Cremations
It is becoming more widely accepted that pet loss does affect people. Services offering the same compassion and understanding to pet owners as those offered by funeral directors are more common. Being able to attend their pet’s individual cremation has helped bereaved owners come to terms with their loss.
There are many other services that are available to bereaved owners to help them cope with their loss. For example, it is possible to create online tributes to their departed pet; these can be shared with friends and family and across social media. Not only bringing comfort to the owner, but to other pet owners going through a similar experience, seeing that they aren’t alone in feeling so bereaved.
So the human-animal bond is a very real thing. Whether you see your pet as a family member or a way to support your independence; when the time comes to say goodbye, don’t be surprised if your feelings of loss and grief are particularly strong.
About the Author
Jon Baily has been writing for the CPC blog since Jan 2016 covering animal welfare topics including travel tips, ideas on having fun with your pet and animal welfare. He also draws together expert opinion on dealing with pet loss and talking about grief and the options available to pet owners on saying their final farewells including pet cremation and online pet tributes.