The big park in the sky

by statia on June 8, 2012

You guys,  Gromit doesn’t have much longer.  A week (I hope longer) a month? Two? He had toe cancer last year, and because it was localized, just lobbed off the offending dew claw, and life went on.  And we all had a good laugh, because dude, you can’t even get CANCER the right way. You’re just going to live forever and shed in ever single baseboard crevice I own, aren’t you?  But the Meester noticed a lump on his paw again, this time on his paw, rather than a dew claw. Off to the vet he went. They didn’t think it was anything more than a fatty lump, but they’ll scrape and aspirate it just to make sure. Code for “we have to make money somehow.” I figured it was most likely another fatty lump, which dogs are just prone to in old age. We get liver spots, dogs get lumpy. It’s gross. When they said it was cancer again, we had already decided before the results came back that this was it. It’s on his actual foot. He’s 13. Surgery would just tell us how long he has, and he’d most likely lose his foot.  That’s not quality. He’s was an intergal part of my blog early on, before the kids were born. He’s been a champ. Moving several times (and getting so sick of it, that he actually unpacked my dishes once, not breaking a single one), getting divorced, getting re-married. Kids. Through it all, he’s been great. He wasn’t fond of the kids for encroaching on his space and devoted attention, but he’s good with them and now loves their attention. Since we don’t know how long he has, we’ve been spoiling him with various meats, cake balls, and whatever else he wants. Mia is pretty pissed. It’ll be weird not having my deaf, smelly dog around. Like an empty hole.  What’s worse is that we’ve been trying to explain to the kids what’s happening, so that they’re more compassionate and patient with him when he just stops in the middle of the room for no reason, or steps on their legos.  And I don’t want them to come home one day and ask where he is, and have him not be there.  Can I tell you how hard it is to explain to a three and five year-old this whole process of dying? We’re trying to keep it as simple as possible.  ”Gromit is sick, and won’t be around much longer. Soon he’ll go live with Adonis in dog heaven, and he’ll be able to run and play.”

Mini: But Gromit can’t run, his legs are bad!

Me: Yes, but in dog heaven, his health will be restored, and he’ll be able to run and play again.

LG: But I don’t want Gromit to go away!

While LG is still too young to understand the concept of death and dying, she knows that she doesn’t want him to go away forever. I know this is because we’re all creatures of habit. Her family consists of her parents, her brother, and her dogs. It’s a comfort thing. However, the Mini understands the concept and has been obsessed with death for the better part of a year. Not long after he turned four, he developed the anxiety surrounding all things death and dying. It’s been incredibly hard to watch him get upset over knowing there’s mortality and an end to everything. We try to keep it light, but I get it. That fear is so real, and I hate that he gets it so early in life.

And when the time comes for them to say goodbye to Gromit, I’m debating on whether or not to tell them when it’s time, so that they can say their goodbyes beforehand (I won’t be bringing them to the vet, because they’re way too young to handle that). Anyone else deal with this sort of thing at such a young age? What happened to telling kids their beloved pet went to live on a farm and having that be the end of it?

{ 10 comments }

Shelly June 8, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Oh honey, I am so sorry. Losing my beloved cat was the worst thing I have ever done. I remember taking her to the vet for the final time more vividly than I remember the birth of my kid. I may have loved her more than I love my kid. Okay, I’m just kidding (sort of) but I do understand your heartbreak.

Suzie June 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm

When our 21 year old cat died, I bought books- it was kind of a disaster, because I sobbed my way through them and Josie still didn’t really get it- although then she was confused AND upset that mommy was crying so much. I don’t know. She drew a picture and we put that, and a blanket and a few toys in the box and said good-bye (although Tim had to do the arranging in the box) and we still talk about him. A bigger dog, like yours or mine will be harder, because I think ashes are maybe a little harder to comprehend? Josie basically thinks of our dog as a sibling (and fights with him like one), He’s around 12 and I’m not sure if I am dreading losing him or her heartbreak more. It’s really very poor planning to get a dog BEFORE you have kids, it kind of ensures this scenario will play out. That should be in a book somewhere.

Betsy June 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Can I start by saying how sorry I am? It sucks so bad to lose a beloved pet, even to old age.

My son is roughly your daughter’s age. Last November, we lost our little cat Cordie to her heart condition. He still brings her up. He last brought her up two days ago, in fact.

“Cordie doesn’t sleep anymore. She’s far, far away. Can we go see her in the car, Mama? Can I pet her then?”

UGH.

When we had her euthanized, her vet gave me a packet that had some, “Dealing with grief for your children” in there. For the 3yo age bracket, you have to make them understand that this does not affect them – they are not going anywhere, nor did they cause this. (Toddlers are so egotistical). Once Gunnar had that down, that he wasn’t leaving just because a pet was, he was mostly fine about it, although he still asks if he can pet her weekly (sigh).

Yo-yo Mama June 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm

When we moved into this house, Dood was the same age as L is now. One of our two cats was too sick for a transition, but Dood hardly noticed him gone (he was old and avoided us all), but the other cat, August, went to live with the grandparents. Dood missed her terribly as if she had died.

This year she turned 14 but became terribly ill. My husband took Auggie in to the vet and requested the remains. Because this spring had been particularly hard on Dood with school and behavior issues, the last thing we wanted to do was announce that she had died. So my husband put her poor little body in the freezer (I really hope I’m not upsetting you with this, but I am getting to a point). Just a couple weeks ago, after school was let out, husband took her out of the freezer in the morning and wrapped her up in one of his favorite old t-shirts.

When we got home that night, he too Dood outside to a spot he had already prepared and broke the news. Even after all these years we hadn’t had Auggie in our home, Dood was still devastated. I remember him coming back in the house and looking over at him and he started crying. Losing a pet is incredibly difficult. While the first cat wasn’t close to me or Dood, my husband suffered terribly after the loss, and he’s a grown man.

I think there’s nothing wrong with explaining to a child honestly what has happened with a pet. You wouldn’t explain it any differently if it was a person, right? Your pets are part of the family and a child will grieve in his and her own way over that loss. This will make it hard for you at times, because they will ask repeatedly what happened, and why did he get sick, and usually they ask when you might be feeling finally at peace with what has happened, thereby causing a fresh stab of loss.

I’m sorry to hear Gromit is not feeling good. You’re very lucky to have a sweet animal that your children will most likely remember always.

Huy June 8, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I’m so sorry S. Losing a pet is always so hard. He was a big part of why I loved reading you in the good old days. My thoughts will be with you guys.

Veronica June 9, 2012 at 4:33 am

I’m so sorry Statia. xxx

geohde June 9, 2012 at 6:36 am

…and now I am sad all over again because I use to have the sweetest idiot of a giant horse (alsatian) called Gromit who got all demented and incontinent and deaf and blind and generally barking *mental* and had to go to the big dog park in the sky. I loved that dog. Still do. Loveliest idiot ever, she was.

G

Wendy June 10, 2012 at 9:45 am

ah, maan. I’m all weepy over how hard this must be for you. I’m sending all my love to you guys and Grom. <3

Lisa June 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I’m so sorry to hear that Gromit’s not doing well. He’s been there for you for a long time. Thinking of all of you.

Siera June 13, 2012 at 2:49 am

I was spared ever losing a pet as a young child (save a gerbil or 2 that my cat got) we only had to say good-bye when the cats were surrendered to the SPCA when my parents split up and moved to seperate houses. I had my childhood cat for 15 years and 3/4′s. I lost her at 22 and my adult cat within a month of each other. So I have no advice. I think you’re doing the right thing. Having an ASD son who seems to like the cat at times but is more interested chasing her, if she were to leave us before he can really grasp the concept of death, I wouldn’t mention it to him until he noticed she was gone. And say she left or went bye-bye. Aaron is a young 4. (He is more 3 developmentally.) I think it varies from one child to the next and since LG has Meester to point out the absence of Gromit, I think your handling it right. I am sorry you will have to say good-bye to him.

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