Never let anyone tell you dogs don’t feel loss when their human companions die. Dogs are complex, devoted animals. They have a keen sense of loyalty. For some dogs, the death of a human friend is devastating and life changing.
These are the stories of four dogs who mourned the loss of their human friends in moving and extraordinary ways.
Little Man: The Dog Who Wouldn‘t Leave
Ronnie Ward spent a lot of time with his beloved bull terrier, Little Man. It’s no wonder, then, that Little Man refused to leave his side when Ward collapsed and died on July 11, 2014, while walking by the river near Oklahoma City.
Police reported that Little Man stood watch over his deceased friend in blistering near-100 degree heat, never leaving Ward’s side even to drink from the nearby river until Ward’s body could be removed from the scene. Authorities struggled to pull Little Man away from the body, but he fought them every step of the way. Early reports indicated Ward was a homeless man, but that was later determined to be inaccurate.
Little Man showed clear signs of sadness and depression at the animal shelter to which he was taken after police found Ward’s body. He refused to eat, drink or even lift his head. HLN reported on the dog’s obvious distress at the loss of his companion here:
Don’t worry about Little Man, though. Ward’s daughter has adopted him, happy to give a home to her father’s faithful friend:
Figo: Final Respects to Fallen Police Partner with a Paw on Casket
Kentucky police officer Jason Ellis, 33, died in an ambush in 2013. He was a K-9 officer who worked daily with a police dog named Figo. They’d formed a strong bond, coming to depend on one another as they fought crime together. When Officer Ellis died, there was no question that Figo would attend his funeral along with throngs of other law enforcement workers.
Figo’s devotion touched many around the world when a moving image from the funeral went viral. Figo stepped up to his partner’s casket and touched it with his paw, appearing for all the world as though he was sending an affectionate and sad final farewell to Ellis. See it happen here:
“It seemed like the dog was aware of what was going on,” photographer Jonathan Palmer told Today. “His mannerisms, his posture. He went to the casket and put his paw on it. It was like he was inspecting it.”
The loss of a partner hits hard and Figo had to be retired after the loss of Ellis. The happy ending here is that Ellis family adopted the devoted dog, keeping all those who loved Jason Ellis together forever.
Matilda: She Won‘t Stop Returning to Scene of Fatal Crash
No one knows her real name, but locals in Makhachkala, Russia, call her Matilda. For at least two years now, the German Shepherd has refused to leave the spot of the car crash that killed her human friend, Artem Makovich.
The police think Makovich was out driving with Matilda, fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a streetlight. Makovich died instantly. Matilda survived, though she was injured.
The police took care of her until she recovered. They tried to find her a new adoptive home, but she refuses to stay. She keeps returning to the scene of the accident, lying in the road at the spot where it happened. After several attempts to re-home Matilda, locals now realize that she won’t accept a new family. A kind local cafe owner now ensures she’s fed.
“I really feel sorry for the dog,” the cafe owner told The Daily Star. “She keeps coming back to the last place she saw her owner and must’ve had a great love for him. A few people have tried to take her home but she always runs back to the place where the accident happened.”
Hawkeye: Guarding the Coffin of His Navy SEAL at Funeral
Care2 readers may remember our coverage in 2011 of a Labrador Retriever named Hawkeye, the faithful dog who touched millions at the funeral of Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson.
Tumilson, along with 29 other American troops, died when the Taliban shot down a helicopter in Afghanistan in August 2011. According to media reports, his dog Hawkeye was present for the funeral and did something remarkable right from the beginning of the service.
Hawkeye led Tumilson’s family down the aisle to their seats. He then followed Tumilson’s friend, Scott Nichols, as Nichols approached the podium to eulogize his fallen friend. Hawkeye padded forward, right up to the flag-draped casket. He then lay down on his side next to it with a sigh and remained there for the eulogy and the duration of the funeral.
See a brief snippet of Hawkeye beside Tumilson’s coffin during the funeral service here:
In a fitting final touch to this heartbreaking story, Nichols has adopted Hawkeye. It warms the heart to know that Tumilson’s two best friends have forged their own bond.
Can dogs really grieve for the dead? Behavioral experts are torn. Those who love dogs like the four in this story know the answer, however. Dogs can grieve. Some always will.
Photo credit: Thinkstock