A few weeks ago, our precious dog passed away. What makes her passing even harder for us all was the fact that we were away and so was she when it happened. The kids were visiting relatives, and I was out of town. Our dog traveled with us often, but considering the amount of travel we had been doing, we decided to leave her with a friend for the last few weeks.
She was an old dog, adopted about 8 years ago when she was already a little over a year old. My best friend agreed to keep her, and updated us regularly on how sweet and easy going she was. And oh was she sweet. In fact, I blogged many times with pictures of my children loving on her. However, after the second week, her health took a sudden turn. Within a few days, our dog was gone.
I wasn’t with her for her last days. My children weren’t with her. The heartache of suffering with her and preparing for her after life care was put on the shoulders of my friend. I grieved from another state, choosing to delay telling the kids until after my son’s 14th birthday.
The older 4 (out of 7) understood what the death of their dog meant: they would not be returning to her in a week and she would not be returning to them. As for the younger 3, the understanding of death is not something they can truly grasp, especially without seeing her sick. The last they knew of their dog was walks through Mount Lemmon.
My very busy, smart and chatty 3 year old has come up to me nonchalantly a few times and said, “Nala is dead.” My 6 year old, who is verbal but autistic, asked where Nala was yesterday. I told him, but he had left the conversation before hearing my reply.
My 4 year old loves dogs. He hugs every dog he sees. It’s been so hard losing our precious family member and she will be missed forever.
But I am going to wrap up children’s understanding of death with something sweet, funny and curious:
Yesterday, the friend who was watching Nala when she passed, stopped by the house. The 4 year old said,
“I want my dog back!”
She crouched down and said very sweetly, but with much sadness, “oh baby, your dog went to be with Jesus.”
The four year old demanded, “why did Jesus take my dog?!”