How will my dog feel when her friend moves away?
October 25, 2020 6:00 PM   Subscribe

A neighbor is moving out of state later this week with her husband and wonderful dog. They live a few houses away, and we often stop while out on walks to let the dogs romp around in their backyard. I’m wondering how my dog will take it when they are no longer there (and it’s kind of bumming me out, to be honest).

A little background: my dog Ivy is a rescue that is pretty reactive to people and other dogs. We have cultivated a nice, easy friendship over the past few years between her and Piper, the neighbor’s dog. Their friendship isn’t very interactive in an obvious sense – they don’t really “play” together physically in the way that many dogs play together – most of the time they just sniff around the yard, doing their own things, and occasionally Ivy zooms around the yard, trying to get Piper to chase her. Piper is gentle, patient, and absolutely lovely with Ivy, and Ivy is always eager to greet Piper and visit.
Sooo…it’s paining me a bit to imagine this parting from Ivy’s point of view. One day Piper is there, the next day…gone forever. Most people seem to think that Ivy is too “in the moment” (read: small brained) to wonder or think about it, but I feel sad to think of her passing by Piper’s house and wondering where he and his family are. Any thoughts, especially comforting ones, welcome.
One other note: I’m thinking people may want to know if there is a possibility of a dog visit. Although there certainly is (Piper is moving about 4 hours away), it may not be for a long time.
posted by dreamphone to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
This happened with me and my dog a few years ago - a beloved neighbor and her dog (who was buddies with my dog) moved away. For a few weeks, he would sometimes stop in front of her apartment door, like "let's go see our friends" and kind of look at me like "aren't we going to go see them??" but that faded pretty quickly. He was very excited when new people moved in with a different dog.

Dogs really do live much more in the moment than we do. It's not that they forget people/other dogs, but they really deal mostly with what they see in front of them. If Piper does see your neighbors and their dog again, she will almost certainly remember them, but she will not be pining away for them.
posted by lunasol at 6:49 PM on October 25, 2020 [15 favorites]

Yes, dogs have long memories but they don’t lose the ability to find joy like people sometimes do when they are missing someone. You can make new doggy friends and it will be okay. She might be confused why her buddy isn’t there, and will probably do a lot of sniffing around the fence to smell what might have been happening. But it’s more like, Piper enriched her life, and her being away won’t take away that enrichment.

Dogs that do have serious trouble grieving are usually suffering from other kinds of trauma or it’s the passing of a bonded friend. It sounds like this isn’t a case of soulmate dogs and you seem like a great, empathetic person for Ivy so I bet any palpable sadness will actually be something you’re feeling that she is reflecting back at you, the ways dogs are so good at doing.
posted by Mizu at 7:51 PM on October 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

There isn't going to be one moment when your dog finds out that her friend moved away. She won't have a reason to be sad about it at any particular time. Even if she sees other people at the house, she won't understand the significance with regard to her friend.

When we had to put our older dog down, the younger dog went through a period (a few weeks) in which she was clearly worried, even though the two of them didn't get along very well. They were almost always together for over a decade, and they were part of the same pack. By contrast, when my dad died (not at home) a few years earlier, younger dog wasn't obviously distressed. She would be confused and disappointed if she heard a noise associated with him and he never appeared, but it wasn't out of the ordinary for the humans to be away sometimes, and she was still cared-for by the rest of the family. She adjusted pretty easily.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: yes, dogs grieve loss. However, they are much more concerned with those closest to them and with changes to their everyday routine. It doesn't sound like the dog friend was an integral part of your dog's life. You might think of this as similar to losing a coworker you like personally but don't see outside of work.
posted by Comet Bug at 8:07 PM on October 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Dogs definitely do remember their friends even when they don't see them for a long time, but as the smell of Piper fades from his yard, your dog will understand that Piper no longer lives at the neighboring house. I think it might be concerning you that your dog has no way to really process or understand Piper's disapearence, but she does, in her own way.

I agree with Mizu that you seem like a wonderful, empathic and caring dog human. I'm sure Ivy has a great life with you. She won't be too sad for too long. Maybe you can find some new, special things to do on some of your walks that will give her a bit of distraction. You know like, "Oh here we are at Piper's house, where's Piper? Sniff, sniff. What? Do I want to go chase the squirrel down the street?! Oh YES I do!!! Let's go!". That kind of thing.

Hugs to Ivy. Dogs are the best!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:47 PM on October 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'll second that it doesn't sound like the two of them are bonded in a way that it'll be a terrible loss, but for some dogs, socialization with other canines, no matter who it is or how direct it is, is important. If she seems down, is there a dog park nearby that you can go to with her so she can spend some time hanging out with other dogs?
posted by Candleman at 10:18 PM on October 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thank you all so much, generous dog people! Honestly, this was so helpful for me. Seeing Piper's family go while feeling gratitude for the ways that Piper helped my pup feels like such a better way to say goodbye, and every one of these responses helped get me there.
posted by dreamphone at 4:59 PM on October 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

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