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The phenomenon of grieving dogs: The ultimate loyalty [Updated]

Living up to the title of man's best friend, these dogs face danger and death to stay near the ones they love

In the face of disaster, danger, and death, some dogs live up to their reputations as man's best friend with heartwrenching acts of loyalty. Ciccio, a 12-year-old German shepherd, proves how faithful he is on a daily basis, heading to his nearby church in Italy when the bells begin to ring each afternoon, just as he did with his owner when she was alive. "Dogs go through grief, just as we do," said Sarah Wilson, an animal behavior expert, in People. "It's all a part of being attached and loved." Here, 12 dogs whose courageous and loyal actions say more than words:

1. Ciccio: Truly devoted
Ciccio and his owner lived in the village of San Donaci in the southern region of Puglia, Italy. When the bells tolled each afternoon, he would accompany the woman, who was known in the village as "Maria of the fields," to church. But when Maria died suddenly in November, Ciccio appeared devastated. He attended the funeral and followed his mistress' coffin as it was carried into the same local church. Thereafter, he just kept coming back, day after day. His devotion has so impressed the parishioners that they rallied together to care for him, giving him water and food and allowing him to sleep in a covered area outside the church. The priest, while hoping to find a new home for the faithful pup, even lets Ciccio sit in front of the altar during service. 

2. Capitan: Faithful forever
Miguel Guzman bought Capitan for his son, Damian, in 2005. After Guzman died the next year, Capitan disappeared. A week after the funeral, the family returned to the cemetery in central Argentina and found Capitan there, howling. The heartbroken dog had found the cemetery and tomb on his own, and has lived there ever since, sleeping on Guzman's grave. "I've tried to bring Capitan home several times," Damian, 13, says, "but he always comes straight back... He's looking after my dad."

3. Hawkeye: Loyal to the end
Hawkeye the chocolate Lab's owner — 35-year-old Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson — died in the August 6, 2011, helicopter crash that killed 38 American servicemen. Roughly 1,500 mourners came out to a local high school gym in Iowa to pay their respects, and all eyes were on the heartbreaking display of devotion as Hawkeye, unwilling to leave the side of Tumilson's casket, seemed to grieve for his fallen friend. (Watch the video here.) 

4. Kirby: Going the distance
In early August 2011, Kirby, a small black dog whose owner recently died, went missing from his new home. The little pup was found soon after, sitting by his owner's grave, having walked miles to find it.

5. Unknown: Standing guard
After Japan's devastating earthquake in March 2011, reporters videotaped a shaking, mud-splattered spaniel sitting next to another dog, which is lying, hardly moving, next to him. The healthier dog refuses to leave his friend and stands guard, sometimes pacing. The dogs were eventually rescued and taken to medics. The video received 10 million hits on YouTube with comments from dog lovers pouring in: "That dog is a better person than most humans," wrote one. "Loyalty is the best word to use when you describe a dog. Truly, man's best friend is a well-deserved title," wrote another.

6. Leao: Keeping vigil
In January 2011, floods and landslides ravaged Brazil, outside Rio de Janeiro. One of the most "gut-wrenching" photos to emerge from the tragedy showed a mixed-breed dog, Leao, lying patiently by the fresh grave of his owner. While news of the fatal landslides spread, it was the image of this lonely, grief-stricken dog that really put a "face on just what a tragedy the country [was] facing," said Sasha Brown-Worsham at The Stir.

7. Spot: Faithfully waiting
While Wayne Giroux was working away at his lawnmower repair shop, his dog, Spot, waited faithfully for his return every day at the same street corner near their home in Lone Oak, Texas. After Giroux was killed by a drunk driver in June 2010, Spot continued to wait for him. Five months later, the dog still waited, and Giroux's son, Paul, said he didn't think the dog would ever give up.

8. Zelda: Looking for her boy  
Joshua Reed rescued a sweet, rust-colored dog named Zelda from the road after she was hit by a car. From that moment on, the two were inseparable, said Marci Reed, Joshua's mother. In 2009, just three years after their chance meeting, 15-year-old Joshua was killed in an ATV accident. Months later, the dog could be seen roaming the Indiana farm roads near the family's home. "She's without her boy," said Marci Reed, "She just sniffs all over looking for her boy."

9. Clara: Struggling to comprehend
After actress Brittany Murphy died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in December 2009, her Maltese, Clara, was visibly devastated. "One of the saddest things is that Clara has looked everywhere for Brittany and can't find her," said Simon Monjack, Murphy's husband, in People.

10. Unknown: Dodging traffic
This "rather unbelievable" video that surfaced in December 2008 showed one dog's heroism in the face of danger — and oncoming traffic. After a dog is hit by a car on a freeway, another dog dodges cars and drags his severely injured friend off the highway to safety.

11. Cash: Starving to protect
Jake Baysinger, a 25-year-old Colorado man, had been missing for months in 2008 when, in August, his German Shepherd, Cash, was found roaming the Colorado plains. The dog led searchers to Baysinger's body. He had reportedly committed suicide, and Cash stayed by his side for six weeks. The dog was badly dehydrated and very thin, and authorities said it was a miracle the animal survived. But his presence prevented Baysinger's body from being attacked by coyotes. 

12. Squeak: Refusing to leave
In March 2002, a 51-year-old farmer named Terry Ford was brutally killed in Zimbabwe. Sitting beside the mutilated corpse was the man's devoted dog, a 14-year-old Jack Russell Terrior named Squeak. It took family members an hour to coax the dog away: "He was crying when the body was found and he is still crying now," said one friend of the family.

Sources: CNN, Dogs In The News, Huff. PostNBC NewsPeople, The Stir, The Sun, The Telegraph (2), USA Today

This article — originally published on Aug. 1, 2011 — was last updated on Jan. 17, 2013.


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