Real-life stories of animals and their amazing bond with humans

The dog that died of a broken heart


Chubby was more than just a pet to the Wicks family. This black, brown and white dog was a true member of the family, and as events showed, he shared their bad times as well as the good ones.

Chubby lived with Jim and Mary Wicks in their house in Armadale, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia. Although he was part-kelpie―a breed of sheepdog―he had more white in him than is usual for the breed and had a friendly appearance.

He belonged to both Jim and Mary Wicks, but it was with Jim that Chubby shared a special bond. So it was no surprise that this good-natured dog became an important source of comfort for Jim Wicks when disaster struck in 1991. A fire destroyed their home, and Jim was quite badly burned. During the many months of illness that followed, Chubby stayed close to Jim, as if guarding and protecting him from any further harm.

human dog bond invisible ChubbyWhen the house was rebuilt and Jim was able to sit outside on the veranda, he would throw a ball for Chubby to fetch and the two spent many an hour in each other’s company. Chubby, no youngster himself, seemed to help Jim through his slow and painful recovery. And when Jim and Mary went to bed, Chubby fulfilled another important role as a guard dog. His part-kelpie breeding made him an alert, fierce and reassuring presence outside the house. The months passed by and Jim recovered from his burns. But by May 1993 he had fallen ill again.

The doctors were concerned about Jim’s condition; he had suffered from bad headaches for a while and was now quite ill. His faithful pet was also concerned it seems. One night in May 1993 Jim heard Chubby barking and scratching at the back door. Wondering what was the matter, Jim opened the door. Chubby ran into the house, headed straight for the bedroom and sat down by Jim’s side of the bed.

Jim and Mary realised this was unusual behaviour, as Chubby was very much an outdoor dog who not only was not allowed to enter the house, he had never before shown any desire to do so.

Yet here he was by Jim’s bedside, refusing to budge. The next day Chubby still refused to leave the house and instead stayed close to Jim as he moved slowly around. Neither Jim nor Mary could explain Chubby’s sudden change of behaviour but they decided to let him stay inside with his master. The next day Jim suffered a stroke and fell into a coma; and sadly he died soon afterwards in hospital.

Back at home, it was obvious that Chubby knew exactly what had occurred. The distraught dog, who had clearly sense that his owner had been slipping away, now sat listlessly on the veranda not eating and scarcely drinking now Jim had finally gone.

For day after day he barely moved. Then, a week after Jim had died, Chubby too passed peacefully away. Although there was no obvious reason for his death, Mary Wicks was sure she knew what had happened to old Chubby. Separated from his beloved master, she believed the faithful dog had simply died of a broken heart.

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