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Death and Dying in Human and Companion Canine Relations

By Maria MA Desougi

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Since before the Neolithic Revolution, when human civilisation first emerged, humans and canines have lived, and died, together. This Scottish study is conducted in the field of animal-human interaction and, using qualitative methods, applies established insights from the sociology of health (born of human-to-human interaction) to a human-animal relationship. Specifically, this thesis explores death and dying in relations between the companion canines, and the human members, of ten families. Nonhuman illness narratives are found in profusion in this study, and it was also found to be possible to apply biographical disruption to nonhumans, when conceptualised as biographical disruption-by-proxy. Unexpectedly, there emerged from the data support for a four-fold model of canine selfhood, as forged within the family. This is, as far as I am aware, the first modelling of a specific nonhuman consciousness, within the discipline. Suffering was found to exist in both physical and non-physical forms for the companions, and a mutual vulnerability to loneliness, and desire for companionship, appears to be a powerful point of connection between the humans and the canines. Being together emerged as both a practice, and as an ideal, that moulded the human-canine relations, and it was regarded as unfitting for a canine to die alone. Companion canine dying comes forth as a negotiated process, shaped by a divide between gradual and sudden death. This work encountered developed narratives of departure, that seem to structure the experience of losing a companion. In particular the role of the expert is a privileged voice in the negotiations of dying, and the biomedical view is treated as being definitive. The role of the expert is not simply submitted to however, but a range of stances to veterinary authority are displayed, being; acquiescence, resistance and invalidation of the veterinary voice. Ultimately, whilst interplays of wellbeing are present, they are less biophysically grounded, than they are rooted in the everyday routines of life, in the rituals of eating, sleeping, walking, and playing together, that compose the shared world of the human and companion canine.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Pages 255
Department School of Applied Social Science
Degree Doctor of Philosophy
University University of Stirling
  1. Animal roles
  2. Death
  3. Dogs
  4. Human-animal interactions
  5. Mammals
  6. open access
  7. peer-reviewed
  8. Pets and companion animals
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed