A Broken Heart

S M Chen
5 min readFeb 23
Free use

I learned something new recently.

When one is too old to learn, one is truly too old.

With good fortune, I’m not there yet.

I viewed a PBS/BBC program entitled “Dogs in the Wild.” The program featured segments on members of the canid family in various parts of the world, ranging in size from the fennec, about the size of a cat, to the wolf, thought to be the progenitors of domesticated dogs.

One segment concerned wild dogs in Africa.

These dogs are highly family oriented. They hunt in packs of up to 40 and look out for one another in ways humans can relate to.

One would think that, if injured, nursing them back to health might be easy.

Not necessarily.

Veterinarians noted that, in captivity, injured wild dogs sometimes died despite seemingly being nursed back to physical health.


What was going on?

To their surprise, autopsies revealed these dogs died of a condition called ‘broken heart syndrome.’

They apparently grieve, and perhaps mightily, when separated from their pack. Sufficient to cause their demise.

We cannot communicate verbally with members of the canid family.

Dr. Doolittle and his ilk?

Still a fantasy.

But it is clear nonhuman members of the animal kingdom communicate with each other in ways we do not understand.

But our lack of understanding does not necessarily imply inferiority on the part of others.

We might be astonished to learn just how sophisticated other members of the animal kingdom are in their ability to communicate with each other.

Humility, rather than hubris, would seem in order.

Of more than a little interest, when a member of an African wild dog pack was shot (by a farmer for trespassing onto his property) but allowed access to other pack members during recuperation, the injured dog made a full recovery.

It’s been observed in both humans and other animals, including domesticated dogs, when partners/mates/companions pass, the survivor often doesn’t last long…