This I Believe

Zandrea - Tucson, Arizona
Entered on October 13, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

The Agony of Emotion

Emotions are expressions that every animal utilizes to portray an ultimate state of mind. They arise spontaneously and provoke positive or negative responses in accordance with the situation and type of animal. Capabilities of such emotion are thought to exist in various mammals including humans and dogs. Yet even today many people would argue that certain animals lack the intelligence needed to express emotional pain.

Every type of animal shares the common task of producing offspring. Labor can be a physically painful and emotionally draining occurrence. Different animals have their own methods of dealing with and expression emotional pain this intense stress. I, personally didn’t believe dogs were capable of expressing emotional pain until I witnessed my own German shepherd dog, Yola, birth a litter of puppies.

It was sometime mid June when my canine companion, Yola went into labor. She sat panting inside a refrigerator box on my laundry room floor. Her restlessness and constant pacing was enough for any one to have sympathy for her extensive labor ahead. She bore nine puppies, which was a more than average number for a German shepherd dog.

Yola’s five hour labor on this very hot afternoon was not an easy task. She staggered to her feet, and began to look as if she was going to relieve herself in the box. just then I was amazed when I saw what looked like a little brown ball covered in goop drop and hit the cardboard with a thud. As Yola cleaned the newborn, she was content for the first time in days. That comfort didn’t last long because the next puppy was on her way out! The first few puppies came with seemingly no difficulty. Seven boys, one after another and finally a girl.

Yola showed no fear or physical pain. I began to wonder if she perhaps was in pain, but wasn‘t showing it due to a high pain threshold. Or maybe she was more concerned with her pups?

Her labor appeared to continue into the night. To our astonishment she got up and began to deliver yet another pup. Yola seemed tired and laid down for a few minutes and didn’t push. Curious, my mother and I checked. We saw that there were two little puppy paws poking out. But they were the back paws! Surprised, we called the veterinarian, he assured us that It wasn’t unusual to have a breech birth. All we had to do was help him out by pulling on his paws gently. Finally when the puppy came out Yola licked him continuously just as she had as she did with the other pups but there was something wrong, the pup didn’t move or cry. Yola seemed to have noticed before we did because she began to nudged it with her nose. The puppy didn’t move. She licked him more and more pleading for the puppy to wake up. Finally she let out the strangest howl we had ever heard. It echoed through our and we all knew it was the sound of grief. She turned away from the pup, rejecting the occurrence. She proceeded to lick her other puppies as if to compare the joy she felt for their life to the pain she felt form the death of the last pup.

Limp and wet, the puppy sat cold and alone in the corner. My mother tried her hardest to rub the puppy into life, but failed.

Every animal deals with the loss of a child in their own way. Humans grieve for long periods of time, often the grieving never ceases. Yola had her own method to morn the puppies death. She only cried once, but the cry was more agonizing than any cry she had ever exhaled. Her howl was more painful than any expression of physical hurt I have ever witnessed from her. Emotional dealings vary from culture to culture as grieving differs from animal to animal. We each grieve in our own way, and some animals have specific ways to deal with emotional pain or physical pain. Perhaps many animals do not show their physical pain for fear of vulnerability amongst their kind. Or we may not see the emotional pain of certain animals because they do not share the capabilities of expressing human emotion. This dose not mean that they posses no level of emotion. However, I do know now that dogs are certainly capable of expressing the emotional pain felt from the loss of offspring. The knowledge will forever affect my dealings with dogs, after having discovered this new found level of sensitivity.