Lorde’s right – we shouldn’t work when our pets die

Alice Wright and her dog, Basil
Alice and her dog, Basil, who died in 2017 (Picture: Alice Wright)
It has been reported this week that singer Lorde has delayed the release of her new album because of bereavement.

She has considered that the time and effort that needs to be devoted to her career right now will be affected by grief – and who can blame her? The loss of a loved one can be devastating and your work can most definitely suffer while you come to terms with it.

The fact that Lorde is grieving for her beloved dog Pearl, shouldn’t make any difference.

For many people, dogs are as important as the humans we share our lives with – they are family members. They are a constant, supportive presence in our homes and we would struggle to imagine our lives without them.

The care of a dog can evoke the same feelings as a parent would have for a child; the love, the nurturing, the routine of care that underpins your home – and the loss of a dog radically changes the whole dynamic and rhythm of a household.

You miss them terribly.

The day after my own dog died , I went into work but left before lunchtime.

I was unable to speak to anyone without crying, unable to cope with kind commiserations and yes, I was unable to work effectively. I was as shattered and inconsolable as I had been in the days after I had lost my grandparents.

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Maybe more so, because I had shared a home and a sofa with my dog every single day for over 12 years. He loved and looked after us, and we loved and looked after him.

Thankfully, I was in a supportive environment with a team who knew what my dog had meant to me and agreed that it was best for me not to be in the workplace at such a time.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The loss of a dog is sometimes seen as not worthy of any depth of grief or enough of a reason to warrant compassionate leave.

In the UK, there is no specific law surrounding statutory bereavement leave but it is generally agreed that a number of (usually paid) emergency days can be taken immediately following the death of a dependent or close family member.

A dog is not classed as such, despite what we feel for them.

Ideally, long-term ownership of a dog should qualify it as an official dependent, giving owners the same grace of a few days leave, whether paid or unpaid, without inviting a warning or being at risk of dismissal.

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Last year, a woman who did take a day off following the death of her dog actually lost her job . She has since created a petition arguing that employers have to take compassion into consideration when an employee loses a pet – it has so far garnered over 25,000 signatures.

Ideally, long-term ownership of a dog should qualify it as an official dependent, giving owners the same grace of a few days leave, whether paid or unpaid, without inviting a warning or being at risk of dismissal.

It doesn’t happen often, it’s usually an extraordinary circumstance and surely employees who are dealt with considerately at this time will be more grateful and accommodating in the long-run, compared to those who aren’t?

What’s more, workers distracted and hampered by grief won’t deliver their best performance and delivery could suffer.

Consider their feelings. It might be ‘just a dog’ to you, but to your colleague or friend that dog might have been their whole world.

Simple gestures such as a card, a cake or an acknowledgement that they had been ‘a good dog ’ would be much appreciated. And yes, some time to grieve.

Imagine if you had no close family members and lived alone with your dog.

Imagine if your dog was the reason you got up in the mornings.

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Imagine if your dog was your best friend and gave you companionship, joy and contentment.

Why is the grief of losing that relationship not considered worthy of the same recognition and benefits as any other relationship?

As Lorde describes her feelings on needing time after the death of Pearl: ‘As anyone who has felt loss can understand, there’s a door that opens that you step through, and everything is different on the other side.’

That sounds like grief to me.

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