Dogs are recognized by doctors and therapists as comfort animals. Even Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing, acknowledged the presence of pets as a source of comfort during difficult times such as long illnesses.
The advantage of having a dog beside you when you are grieving is his constant companionship. He offers what most people are not capable of offering during this hard time, he is able to offer comfort without offering any advice. If you want a listening ear, the dog will be there for you, without offering his own experience, or judgment, or any words at all.
I recently read a documentary about a family whose son was deployed to Afghanistan. The soldier was a dog handler in the military, and he and his military dog had an instant liking for each other as soon as they met in training.
The man’s name was Colton and the dog Eli. The two were deployed together, and their work was to find Improvised Explosive Devices so that the devices could be detonated safely. The soldier is reported to have called his mom one night and told her how the other guys felt safe when walking around with him and his dog.
Unfortunately, the soldier was shot by a sniper while on duty, and his dog was left behind. The military was kind enough to give Eli to the family, and fortunately the family and the dog bonded well. Eli now helps them cope with the death of their son. Although their son is no longer with them, the presence of Eli comforts them, especially because they knew how much their son loved Eli. The baby brother to the fallen soldier has adopted the dog and the two sleep beside each other every night, so although his brother is gone, he has a companion who makes him feel like he still has a part of his elder brother.
The soldier’s parents sometimes take the dog with them to their son’s grave, and having him there with them helps them feel connected to their son.