Our very dear friends lost their beloved dog yesterday, and while we all knew this day was coming, (she had cancer), it doesn’t make it any less sad and awful. She was sweet, gentile, loving and all around awesome and I know everyone who knew her will miss her. This brings me to the “having to break the news to the kids” conversation. My little one is too small to understand so I didn’t say anything to him. My big one on the other hand, well, he’s been questioning death since he was 4-ish and he would notice that the dog wasn’t there if he was visiting his friend, so he had to know. I told him when I got the news and after his initial response “oh mom, that’s sad”, he had a few questions. It always starts out with why, and this one was obvious so I said she was sick and she knew it was her time so she just laid down and went to sleep peacefully. I said that was better than the anguish of having to put her down which is what the family was going to do initially. At that point, he wanted to know what “put her down” meant, so we started that talk. Explaining this to a kid isn’t easy, the response could go in any direction so I made sure to be thoughtful in my word choices and keep it on the surface unless he asked for details. I told him the story of me and his dad having to put my childhood dog down when she was old and sick. It was one of the worst days of my life. Holding this fragile, sweet dog wrapped in a blanket knowing what’s about to happen…it’s heart wrenching. I told him how she was part of our family for over 15 years. She was one of the kids. She was spoiled and loved and brought a lot of joy to our home for a long time. I know she knew what was happening when we walked into the vet’s office and I also know that she was tired and ready to go. For as difficult the decision was, it was the right one. My son seemed to understand and sat silent for a minute thinking about it, then he said “well then my friend’s dog was smart and she didn’t want to have her family make that decision so she just did it for them. She was a good dog and now she doesn’t hurt anymore. I hope everyone remembers her for her goodness, I’ll miss playing with her when we visit them”. And this my friends is why I adore this kid. He get’s it. Maybe it is because kids are resilient, maybe it’s because he’s growing up and is privy to more adult conversations, or maybe it’s just because he has a good soul. Whatever the reason I’m thankful that he’s compassionate and cares about others and he knows when to ask the right questions and when to just leave it be.
As adults we always want to know why, we want all the information and we want to dissect it repeatedly. We can’t just leave things be, even when we know better. We wonder and we mull, we argue and we cry, we investigate and try to come up with better solutions that will fit our wants. When someone dies there’s usually an “if only” conversation that happens after it…If only we had tried to get them better care, if only they had fought harder, and so on. We’re rarely good with just leaving it be. Maybe that’s a lesson we should take away from our children. Remember the good things, focus on the happy memories, miss them and appreciate them for who they were to you.
Thanks Alma for making this conversation easier than I thought it was going to be.