Monday, April 14, 2014

Love & Loss

this past weekend was a very tough one as we said goodbye to our dog arthur.  he had degenerative myelopathy and had started loosing control of other functions as well.  he was only eight and the decision had been a long time coming, but that didn't make it any easier.  he was an extra large german shepherd mix who was clueless of his own strength, and lacked confidence after being weaned too early.  he was in many ways an eternal puppy and always a sweetheart...

i knew it was going to be hard on all of us, but i was mostly concerned with how cole would handle it.
at only four years old, he had never experienced death and i knew it would be the gateway
to a lot of questions and some very heartbreaking conversations with him.

i decided to do some research for advice on how to explain things and came across this article that got
my attention when i read "i'm a father first and a veterinarian second."  it really made things clear
and i felt better after reading his advice for him and us as well...

"In a nutshell, the answer is simple. BE HONEST. I am always impressed by how well children understand and respond to these very difficult situations. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and know more than we think. I have seen parents try to soften the whole experience by altering the truth, but that generally backfires."

"Tell the children the truth and you will all grow from the experience. I am a father first and a veterinarian second, and I have dealt with this in my own family."

"One thing I want you to keep in mind that I find very comforting; if you are putting your beloved pet to sleep for the right reasons, I tell my clients "it is OK to feel sad, but don't feel guilty". These are two very different emotions. You should feel sad. Your children can feel the sadness. But don't mix guilt in with the sadness. One emotion is healthy, the other terribly burdensome."

in the end my husband stayed with arthur, and i will always be grateful to him for it because i'm not sure i could have.  when seth got home we explained that arthur was really sick and he died while he was there.  even though it felt harsh i knew using the term "put to sleep" would confuse him and give him anxiety about going to bed at night.  we didn't try to hide our emotions from each other and i told cole it was okay to cry, to be sad, and to miss him.  he said many sweet and heart breaking things, but i do believe we all grew closer as a family because of it.  at one point he went up to our other dog ike, hugged him and and said "your friend is dead, i'm so sorry".  then announced he was going upstairs to draw a picture for arthur...

 afterward he rolled it up and asked each of us to kiss it so he could put it in the mailbox and send
it to arthur.  it broke my heart, but also made me happy that he was expressing himself and finding
his own way to deal with it.  he has continued to ask questions and i know there will be more,
but for now i think he is at peace with it.  we made a point to spend the rest of the day outside,
playing in the sandbox, having ice cream, and enjoying the gorgeous weather together. 

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