Thursday, December 15, 2011


Gentle Readers . . .  and Maxwell,

I have written about my depression on more than one occasion, most recently in  The Illnesses You Can't See.

But I'm sure you've heard that dogs can become depressed too. Faulkner the smooth Collie became extremely depressed when Thoreau the Treeing Walker Coonhound died.
I think it was because Faulkner was so sensitive, and because he was the one who discovered that Thoreau had died.

Reau, as we liked to call him, didn't seem like himself one night when it was time to go to bed. He acted as if he didn't know how to come in the house at bedtime. I suspected he was preparing to die, but decided not to take him to the emergency clinic if it could be avoided. I wanted to let him die peacefully at home.

So I led him into the house and we all went upstairs to bed. At first Reau slept on the bed with me, but after a while, he got down to sleep on the floor. At 3 a.m., Faulkner sounded the alarm. He was always the one who awakened me if one of the other dogs needed to go out in the middle of the night or if someone got sick.

He would put his nose directly on mine, and if I didn't wake up, he would put his nose under my head and lift my head. That never failed to open my eyes.

But this night he barked and I knew why. I got up, and there was my beloved Thoreau, gone to Heaven.

I was at home alone with the dogs. I called a neighbor and she very kindly came over so we could place Thoreau on a blanket and move him to the garage. This was no easy task. He was a very solid dog.

In the morning, some of the men who worked with my ex-husband came over, and they buried Thoreau under the tree where he liked to nap in the shade.

I sobbed and sobbed when Reau died and cried on and off for days. But if I was unhappy, Faulkner was absolutely disconsolate. He became extremely depressed and would lie on the couch in the living room all by himself when the rest of us were in the family room. The poor dog barely moved.

It surprised me a little bit because he and Thoreau were not special buddies. They didn't run and play together. Reau wasn't one to play. He pointed at squirrels and chewed through boards on the fence so he could go to a farm pond to swim. Then he would come home -- wet, dirty, happy -- and Voldemort would replace another board in the fence.

Faulkner also held himself a little apart from the other dogs. He wasn't unkind to them. He knew he was there to take care of all lesser creatures, including us.

Maybe Faulkner was so upset because he and Reau had that apart from the gang thing in common, or perhaps, he recognized his own mortality that night.

For weeks after Reau's death, Faulkner was glued to the couch, not a tail wag in sight.

I took him to the vet, who said to give him extra petting and walks and attention, but it could take some time for him to come out of it. Eventually, he did. We lived happily together and in love until he joined Reau in Heaven.

But it's not just us who can get depressed. Our closest friends can too.

Infinities of love,



  1. I think dogs are some of the most sensitive creatures on Earth. Mine knows when I'm sad and just comes and puts her head on my shoe and rubs my hand for a pet.
    Your Reau and Faulkner were beloved, how blessed you ALL were!

  2. Depression and anxiety. My son rescued a abused dog who had to be on anti-anxiety medication for a year – took him that long to learn to trust us – to know he is loved and safe.

  3. P.S. Became a Follower - your numbers have increased! (Hope I did it correctly.)

  4. I love dogs, but I don't like it when they're unhappy...

  5. So true, animals can get depressed just as easy as we can.

  6. There just seems to be something extra heartbreaking about a depressed animal.

  7. My sister's elderly Black Lab is going through something similar (but thankfully, not as severe) since her other dog died.

    Faulkner was an amazing pet, btw... not that I'm telling you something you didn't already know.

  8. So true. After Rich died, our collie Alex moped around the house for weeks. He was with Rich 24/7 and when Rich was in pain and laying down he'd get up on the bed and lay right next to him with his head on his stomach (where the pain was). It was so sad to see him moping. Dogs most definitely have feelings.

  9. poor doggy. Go buy him a big steak and put on Beethoven for him.

  10. Barb, That's so cool that Alex would put his head where the pain was. I was horribly sick when I was pregnant with Someone I Love and our (small) dog would sleep on my stomach.

    Mr. Fox, It must be very hard for your sister's dog, and thank you for recognizing how amazing Faulkner was.

    Princess, Yes, it is heartbreaking. They can't tell us exactly what's wrong and how to help them feel better.

    Pat, Working dogs often become depressed, too. Their jobs can be extremely difficult.

    GT, Yes, a happy dog is more fun, just like a happy person.

    R, Bad and sad.

    Beth, All of my rescued dogs have had separation anxiety. It can take a year or more before I can leave them for a while and know they'll be OK. And yes, you are a follower and I'm following you. Thank you.

    Sush, I don't understand people who think dogs and cats are stupid. I had one stupid cat once upon a time, but even she could be sweet. All the others have been very intelligent and sensitive.

  11. Jerzey, I don't think he wants it now. He's dead. But if I ever have a depressed dog again, I shall take your advice.

  12. Dogs are surprising critters. They definitely grieve. I've seen it more than once.
    Our new collie is a very sensitive dog.

    I haven't visited in a while (no excuse), but it's good to be back in the groove, so to speak, and catch up with all my blog buddies.

  13. How could you (or your dog) NOT get depressed when a family member dies? Pets are NOT just like a member of the family--THEY ARE MEMBERS OF OUR FAMILIES!

  14. I've never thought about this so deeply. Poor little Faulkner.

  15. My dog knows when I need to snuggle. It's nice. And they know when they need to snuggle, too.

    The cat, on the other hand, she just does it whenever.

  16. You're right. Dogs are extremely sensitive. They'll lick away your tears, and try to comfort you when you're sick or in pain. And yes, they grieve, too. They can break your hearts, but how much better off we all are for the love of a dog.

    And cats, too. (In case my "girls" happen to read this ...)

  17. Hi Rick! I think most collies are sensitive. Franklin is part Border Collie, and he's very sensitive and intelligent.

    Fran, My dogs are my family.

    Elisa, Dogs can have very powerful feelings. Mine always come running to me if they think I'm upset, or I'm having fun. They want to comfort me if I'm upset, and they want to join in on the fun.

    Joshua, Dogs are so smart. We had one cat who knew when snuggling was needed, but the other two -- eh.

    Susan, Dogs AND cats are the greatest.

  18. You are right. Dogs can get depressed and do have feelings just like us! It's often people forget that.

  19. You are correct, ma'am (did I even spell that right? you know what I mean). Dogs seem really sensitive to feelings, and it sounds crazy, but if someone in my house is sick, my cat will leave my side (she's kiiinda obsessed with me) and go curl up next to them til they feel better. Animals have feelings like people too.

  20. Awwww...this is so sad...I'm glad he came out of his depression, but it's still disheartening to picture him laying there alone in his grief. I'm certain his final days with you were filled with love, but this is a very touching post.

  21. Ms. Fun, I've heard of dogs who were so depressed they would hide when offered a walk.

    20 Something, Yes, you spelled ma'am correctly. Your kitty must be very sweet.

    Sandra, He was very much like a depressed person -- wanting to be alone and not move. I'm just grateful that on the day Faulkner died, I gave him the last bite of the watermelon I had for lunch. He loved watermelon.


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