Sunday, May 5, 2013

How to Say Goodbye to a Pet

Yesterday we had to take our 13 year old chihuahua Beast to the vet. I had gotten Beast from a breeder when he was a puppy. He was my baby before I had babies. 

Over breakfast we joked about getting Beast a tiny oxygen mask and tiny oxygen tank. We didn't know what was wrong with him, other than a hacking cough, but given his age I already had decided that we wouldn't go crazy with expensive treatments. 

We got to the vet and he examined both our dogs (our boxer has had some stomach issues). He heard Beast cough and initially thought maybe pneumonia, but after listening to his heart and lungs thought congestive heart failure. He wanted to do X-rays and we agreed. 

The tech said it would take awhile. It was 1:18 so we could go run an errand and be back at 2. We left to run errands. I didn't say goodbye. 

When we returned I ran inside to pick up the dogs and pay. The woman at the front desk led me back into an examining room and I knew something was wrong. I thought maybe the vet was going to say he suspected cancer. He came in and said how sorry he was, that Beast had died during the X-ray, that they had tried to revive him, but weren't successful. He thought that Beast had a heart attack or blood clot. My hands covered my mouth in shock as I started to cry. 

He asked if I wanted to see him and brought me in back. Beast was wrapped in a blanket. He looked relaxed, peaceful. We talked about cremation as I pet his head and cried. 

I paid and the tech helped me outside. my husband saw me coming with just Sasha and got out of the car. The tech told him. 

We got back to the hotel and my daughter kept saying, "Where's Beasty? Where's my Beasty?" She ran all over the hotel room looking for him. We explained that he was in heaven and she asked if heaven was fun. We said very. 

This morning she woke up and asked, "Where's Beast?" We told her heaven. 

Saying goodbye to an old friend is never easy. I can only remember all the times I've been impatient with him over the last 2 years. I know I gave Beast a good life. I wish I had treated him better since we had our daughter. Dogs don't ask for babies to come along. I need to remember that a pet only asks for our love. 

Telling your children their beloved pet is gone requires patience and repetition. Our daughter is too young to understand and that's okay.  Although hearing her ask where Beast is breaks my heart, I know that it's my job as the parent to tell her.  It's also okay that she sees me cry and knows that I miss Beast.  She is learning empathy.  It's okay to grieve the loss of a pet.  They are family.  As hard as it can be to let them go, sometimes you have to.  We decided to have Beast cremated and will scatter his ashes somewhere close to us.  The vet's office is also making a paw print for us.  Other pets I've lost I've buried in the yard and planted flowers.  Decide what is meaningful for your family and what works best for your situation.  Teaching your children have to grieve in a healthy manner is an important part of life.  Holding on to your grief, not dealing with loss is never healthy.     

RIP Beast. Mommy loves you.

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