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Death in the Pack
How does it change the dynamics?
Renzo (left) just isn't the same since Lulu (right) died in August.

I spent this morning at my veterinarian’s office with my dog Renzo, as the result of an early morning counter-surf operation. Returning home from meeting a friend for coffee, I found in his bed: one coffee mug (the broken handle and the dregs of the coffee were on the kitchen floor), a decimated spatula, a tattered New York Times, a torn-up milk jug (which had been drying out before going into the recycling bin) and a Raisin Bran box and pristine plastic liner. After a call to the vet, we headed straight in to deal with potential raisin toxicity. Although the chances are good that the amount of raisins Renzo ate won’t cause serious problems, renal failure is not something I want to risk.

I’ll be bringing him home in a few hours, but that’s not the end of our challenges. This counter surfing is a new thing. It started a couple months ago, a week or two after our 13-year-old Husky-mix Lulu died. Since her departure, Renzo has been clingier when we’re home, anxious when we make moves to leave and, in more and more frequent cases, he’s gone on these little blitzkriegs when left alone. We might go a couple days with no problems, but then it will happen again.

He’s getting plenty of exercise and we’ve been working on new skills, so I don’t think that’s the problem. I work at home, so he’s not alone and/or inactive for long periods, so I don’t think he’s acting out of boredom.

I think it’s a reaction to Lulu being gone. He was bigger, stronger and younger, but he deferred to her in most everything—from hopping on the bed to waiting for his dinner or treats. I often noticed him following her lead when we were out walking. She discovered the cool thing to sniff, and he always had to check it out as well. In the few instances she would go somewhere without him, he was always upset until she returned. Of course, now she’ll never return.

I don’t have any answers just yet. That’s why I’m writing this. I’m wondering if any of you readers have experienced shifts like this in your pack when one of two or more dogs dies. If so, did the surviving dog or dogs adjust to the new role? How did you help the process along? I’d appreciate any observations or advice.

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

Photo by Chris Chang.

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