updated 12/22/2009 AT 4:18 PM ET
•originally published 12/22/2009 AT 4:15 PM ET
As actress Brittany Murphy’s husband Simon Monjack grieves the untimely death of his young wife, who died Sunday in Los Angeles from an apparent heart attack at the age of 32, another family member struggling to comprehend the sudden loss is Clara, the couple’s pet Maltese.
“One of the saddest things is that Clara has looked everywhere for Brittany and can’t find her,” Monjack tells PEOPLE in a heartbreaking interview. Monjack gave the fluffy white dog to Murphy as a Christmas gift last year; she named her after Clara Bow, her favorite silent screen star. The couple, who were married for three years and had no children, doted on the small dog that Murphy once described as “a humongous personality in a tiny package. She’s more of a family member than a pet.”
Monjack tells PEOPLE that very early Monday morning, he was awake, and “Clara, she looked in every place Brittany could be, she couldn’t understand why Brittany was not in bed or in the bathroom, and she looked in every inch of the house.”
“Dogs go through grief, just as we do,” Sarah Wilson, animal behavior expert and co-author of Dogology: What Your Relationship With Your Dog Reveals About You, tells PEOPLEPets.com. “For an animal, you are their world, and they don’t comprehend death or divorce, and that you are no longer there.”
David Michael Latt, who directed Murphy in the Syfy TV movie, Megafault, told PEOPLE that during the three week shoot Murphy’s support network on set included her mom, Sharon, Monjack, and Clara. Having them there “made her feel safe and grounded,” Latt says. “I wouldn’t have hesitated to bring that team back for another show.”
Last Saturday evening, Murphy rested in bed, drinking herbal tea and nursing laryngitis. Clara and Monjack kept the actress company while she watched movies in preparation for casting her vote as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “She wore her pink Beverly Hills Hotel robe and monkey pajamas. We saw It’s Complicated, Public Enemies and The Princess and the Frog,” a devastated Monjack recounts. Tragically, Murphy collapsed early the next morning.
As Monjack grapples to comprehend his enormous loss, he will have their dog Clara by his side. “Over time, the dog will get better,” says animal behavior expert, Wilson. “They do the best they can, just like we do. We learn to deal with it, but it’s difficult. It’s all a part of being attached and loving.”