No, the dog in this photo did not dig a hole ‘to be close to its deceased owner’

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A photo of a dog in a graveyard has been shared hundreds of thousands of times in online posts that claim the animal dug a hole to be close to its dead owner. The claim is false; the photo shows a street dog in Serbia that dug into the ground to have a warm place to give birth. Other photos show the same dog sheltering there with its puppies; they were later rescued.

The photo is contained in this January 10, 2019 Facebook post, which has been shared more than 21,000 times. 

Its caption reads: “A dog dug a hole in the tomb of his owner who has just died so that he could be close to the person who he loves most. Nothing in the world can compare with the love and loyalty of a dog for his owner.”

The same photo has been shared elsewhere on Facebook with a similar claim, for example in this post published July 20, 2015, which has been shared more than 620,000 times.

Below is a screenshot of one of the misleading posts: 

Screenshot of misleading Facebook post

The same photo and claim have also been shared on Reddit here and in posts on other websites, for example here and here.

The claim is false; the dog dug the hole to have a warm place to give birth.

A reverse image search on Google found the same photo posted by the Facebook account of a German animal rescue group here on April 22, 2015.

The photo is one of seven images in this Facebook photo album created by the group. The German-language album title is: “Dog family under a grave”.

Below is a screenshot of the album as it appears on Facebook, with the photo that matches the one in the misleading post circled in red:

Screenshot of album posted by German animal rescue group

Translated into English, the album’s description reads:

“Sometimes you just want to cry and pull the blanket over your head... These pictures have so much symbolic character and stand for the suffering and misery of the street animals in Serbia. 

“Abandoned, exposed, hungry and pregnant, this bitch was left with only this path to take: to dig a hole under a gravestone and give birth to her babies there. 

“The only protection they have against the cold at night and the very warm sun during the day. Rain fills the hole and there is nothing to eat for the mummy. When she is discovered, it will be all over for her children... 

“Please help the mother with her children so that they can be sheltered, vaccinated, neutering at a later date for the mum and fed regularly and given a little care. She doesn't expect anything, but you can give her a little security.”

Similar images were posted to Facebook in another photo album here two days earlier on April 20, 2015, by Serbia-based user Vesna Mihajloski.

One of the photos, which shows the dog’s puppies sheltering in the hole, is embedded below:

That photo album’s description says: “All Photos so far from our little family of the cemetery!!!!! Little Boomer has had the hardest hit by an unknown virus. He has fought for his life and won!!!!! This is why we are incredibly proud of him!!! 

“He is now almost back to the old, there are still some physical problems such as walk but if we look back and thought we should him to sleep... Is that now the least concern!!!! Now even sponsors or even better a forever home!!!” 

Multiple other posts from Mihajloski, such as here and here, show she regularly rescued animals and was based in New Belgrade, part of the Serbian capital Belgrade. 

The album documents the life of the dog and her puppies for about a year. 

It includes photos of documents from visits to the vet, a pet passport issued by Serbia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection with information about the animals, as well as vaccination record