A young woman was helped work through the grief of her mum’s death by her dog.
When Abigail Rabbet lost her mum, she also lost a close companion and daily source of joy.
“I felt lonelier than I had ever felt before,” she admitted.
“I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I cried constantly and I watched so many episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, I dyed my usually blonde hair brown…
“In the months before my mum passed away, we spent all day every day together, watching TV, chatting, drinking tea – and then suddenly one morning that all stopped.
“I was left feeling bereft and in pain, my days were no longer filled with persistent chatter about Emmerdale but rather a silence. I couldn’t even face having on the TV.”
The day after the funeral Abigail’s dad decided to do something to try and cheer her up.
“My dad bundled me into the car and said ‘come on Monster, we’re getting a dog’,” she continued.
“As a family, we’d always had dogs (black Labradors to be specific) but when Storm died at the ripe old age of 17, we were all so devastated, the thought of ‘replacing him’ didn’t compute.
“But it was clear, we needed another personality in the house, to try and fill some of the void left by my mum.
“It was the first ‘nice’ feeling I had felt since my mum died.
“Luckily, dad fell in love just as fast and that same day we walked away with our big-pawed bundle of joy (this isn’t the usual protocol but the breeder was a friend of a friend).”
The impact the little dog had on Abigail’s life was dramatic and immediate.
“When we brought him home, I felt euphoric – he was so small and soft, he laid in my arms for hours,” she continued.
“But then about 9pm that night I started to feel guilty for the amount of joy he brought. He wasn’t a substitute for my mum.
“Several teary hours later, I realised a puppy was the perfect tonic for grief.
“Shadow was something pure and happy (and also impossibly cute). The healing power of animals is a real thing.
“Even having someone else to look after helped to fill a gap in my routine – I had a reason to get out of bed in the morning because the dog needed a wee. “
Because the dog struggles with bedtimes, Abigail often stays up with him, which is a good distraction from her bad dreams.
It has been proven that people who interact with dogs get an increased dose of oxytocin.
And in some cases, just making eye contact with a dog, can give your oxytocin levels a boost.
Studies have also shown dogs are sensitive to emotional upheaval and can respond to emotions their owners are feeling.
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“He has even made walks to my mum’s grave less lonely,” Abigail continued.
“The long walk down the cemetery path doesn’t feel as frightening with my best pal beside me. “
Grief therapy dogs have been around since World War II, proven to assist people in overcoming grief.
They can be found in locations such as funeral homes , hospitals , nursing homes , schools , and hospices .
Popular breeds used as therapy dogs include the Portuguese Water Dog , Bernese Mountain Dog , St. Bernard , and Golden Retriever .
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