(28) Do Dogs Cry? About the emotional service dog

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)


Did you know that a large dog can handle up to nine Benadryl a day for intense allergies? Of course, Molly weighs 130 pounds so she has plenty of girth to handle the heavy dose. Since she started tangling with the scrub oak, our medical instructions include the high dosage of Benadryl and an antibiotic. When William takes one Benadryl at night, it knocks him out. In the past when I suffered from allergies, I took one and slept for 18 hours.

Even drugged, Molly still manages to show up for a meal or at the sound of the treat canister sliding across the counter. She hangs her head low and raises those brown eyes, revealing blood-shot sclera (the white part of the eye—had to look that one up in Wikipedia).

Her ears droop and her tail sags as she swaggers back into the closet after a treat. If an animal displays an emotion, Molly’s mood resembles sadness and hurt from betrayal. She knows her food and treats taste differently and that we are responsible for the change. After every treat, lethargy sets in. Lifting her head or wagging her tail exceeds her physical limits.

If Molly is capable of showing sadness or hurt, then maybe dogs really do cry. Confused on the matter, I asked my husband. He used to raise Rhodesian Ridgebacks so I figured he knew the answer.

“Of course, they cry—just like people.”

“Have you ever seen a dog cry?” It sounded silly to ask. I felt confident his response would be “no” or laughter.

“Yes.” William went back to reading his notepad. He felt assured of his answer.

I remembered reading an article about a police dog that showed great emotion at the funeral for his Royal Canadian Mountie, who was shot and killed along with two other Mounties in the commission of their duties. The article said that Danny, the canine partner of one the Mounties, whimpered during the funeral. At the time, I dismissed it as Canadian sentimentality over the tragic deaths. (For the article and photos, click here.)

After watching Molly react to our medicating her and how she responds to William’s panic attacks, I am convinced that dogs do cry . . ., laugh . . ., get depressed . . ., and care deeply about the people they love. I suppose that is what makes a PTSD dog so helpful. The dog empathizes with the veteran, sharing his or her pain.

Since Molly came to stay with us, only twice has she shown distasteful, raw emotion. In both cases, she bared her teeth and growled at the man walking towards me. She would not let either man get near me even though I knew both of them and told her it was okay to visit. Perplexed by her emotional outbursts on these two occasions, we finally realized that the only thing both men shared in common was their name—George.

Whenever someone asks us if it is okay to approach Miss Molly, we tell them, “Sure, as long as your name isn’t George.”

Post your Comments:

What has your dog done to tell you he or she feels emotions? Please comment below.

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her husband, William, and dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “(28) Do Dogs Cry? About the emotional service dog

  1. Rick

    While I believe there are folks who go overboard with “Anthropomorphism”, there is little doubt in our mind that dogs experience real emotion. Their sense of loyalty and devotion is far stronger than most humans I’ve encountered. No one does “aloof” like a cat when you first return from some absence! Thankfully our cat days are over and we have just our pup around these days.
    Thanks for the nice gift that arrived today, and, indeed, the cover brings fond Colorado remembrances. Cindy continues to allude to an eventual return to the Rockies as our retirement spot, time will tell. The gift’s arrival prompted me to read thru your entire blog record, a great way to wrap up this week, and I laughed many times recognizing some universal dog behaviors.
    PTSD isn’t limited to military veterans, although they are surely the majority of its patients. Our agency is ramping up a CISM team to be more attending to peer based counseling and referrals for early professional assistance, to de-stigmatize AND hopefully hasten faster recovery. Your blog and the lessons within have been reaffirming in this regard….thanks. Best to you both,

    • Penny Culbreth-Graft

      Thanks, Rick, for the comment. You remind me that I haven’t talked about the blended cat and dog family yet. You are so right that there are many others who suffer from PTSD, including our police officers and firefighters and victims of crime and of other tragedy. I’m thrilled that the blogs have helped in some way in addressing an unmet need. I’m glad you are there to make these connections and to help others as only you know how to do. My best to you and Cindy.

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