I mentioned before that I have a lot of dogs, five to be exact. In all my days of dog ownership and dog rescuing, I have seen my share of tragedies, cried over dying puppies as they took their last breath of life in my arms, and took them in for their share of stitches from fights.
When I first bought my house nine months ago, I had two puppies who were sisters from the same litter. They were born on Feb. 14 and 15, 2012. I remember being with the mom as she pushed out the first puppy, a cute, blonde little girl. She was born just before midnight on Valentine’s Day. I fell in love with her and named her Valentine.
It took mom over an hour to push out the last four puppies, who were all born just after midnight on the 15th. Keegan wanted one. He chose a black and white one and named her Wiggles.
The puppies became very ill shortly after I moved into my house. First, it was Wiggles, who was burning up with a fever, and I rushed her to the vet. They gave her antibiotics on the spot after telling me a deadly dog virus was going around. I’d been trying to force water into her. It was so sad because the fever would cause her to lie with her face in the water bowl.
An hour after I got home from the vet, Wiggles died in my lap. I was crushed. And, if that wasn’t enough, Valentine took sick three days later the same way. I was already giving her Wiggles’ medications to prevent catching what her sister did, but it didn’t help. She also became very ill and died. I buried them in my bag yard and decorated their little graves, three days apart.
Keegan was crushed. My kids usually name our pets, and Wiggles was his puppy. He cried so hard, but when he calmed down, he went straight outside with a shovel to bury each one of them. They were buried three days apart, right after they died, and both times he dug their graves.
Keegan asked quite a few questions: Did it hurt when they died? Do dogs go to Heaven like we do? What will happen to their bodies? Why did God let his dog die?
When dealing with kids, these types of questions are difficult to answer. I told him the dogs had fevers so bad that they were delirious and couldn’t really comprehend what was happening to them. I also explained that I believe dogs do go to Heaven. They are as much God’s creatures as we are, and we love dogs on earth, so why wouldn’t we have them in Heaven, too? (If that’s true, I’m screwed when I get there, because my mansion will have to be a dog pound as many as I’ve had over the years.)
We said a prayer over the dogs and asked God to take good care of them. Our little funeral drew in half the neighborhood kids who were playing near our house. Every one of those kids were so kind to Keegan and even helped us to decorate the graves.
Keegan still asks about his puppy. He tells me he misses her and asks if he can get another one. Hecks no, son. Since the death of the puppies, I have ended up with three rescue dogs. No more puppies or new dogs for awhile, sir.
Teaching kids about death is like teaching them about sex: it’s not an easy task. But, it’s one that needs to be done. I tell my kids that death is a part of life, and we are all going to die someday. The best thing to do is live life to the fullest while you’re here and enjoy the days that God gives us. I am fortunate that my kids have learned to deal with death in rational ways.