Thursday, November 8, 2007

What We Learn From Our Pets

created by my 6 year old daughter

Not only are our pets our faithful companions, but they also teach us about our world, through their life, and even in their death.

My children have learned so much from having dogs in their lives: the importance of being kind and gentle; why it is important to help those who cannot help themselves (dogs cannot feed themselves or get their own fresh water); the importance of exercise; sharing (my kids quickly learned that any unwanted food would be gobbled up by their 4-legged friends); patience; and care of others (feeding the dogs, letting them in/out, and taking them for walks). We have been blessed by our pets.

Even though losing a pet is a very sad experience, we have been able to learn about life through her death. What a sad day but also a remarkable day for us. Right away my girls noticed that Molly looked "weird" and wanted to know why. I was able to explain (and for the first time EVER I think they "got" it) that what makes us beautiful is what is on our insides, not on our outside. I explained that once Molly died, what made her beautiful to us, her spirit, left her body and made her body look and feel strange.

I learned about my children and their ability to cope and process grief. My oldest seemed completely unaffected by it all. As soon as we told her Molly was dead, she asked if we could get a new dog and she was very annoyed with me for crying over Molly. However, just before she went to bed last night, the questions started: could we have helped her live longer, is she meeting other dogs in heaven, is she a puppy again in heaven; is Lady (our other dog) going to die soon in the same way, etc. It was nice to finally be able to know what she was thinking and be able to talk it over with her.

My younger daughter seemed to take delight in announcing the news of Molly's death to her siblings. I don't think she was happy about it, I think she just didn't know how to handle the news. Then she went downstairs and created some art work of Molly (see picture) and wrote a letter to her. By the time she was finished with her "tribute" she was in tears. I learned that artwork is cathartic for her and that it helped her to tap into her feelings. (I was glad she was able to do this before she went to school or she would have "lost it" at some point during the school day.) She was sobbing and asked to see Molly one last time. (By this time I had her wrapped in a towel.) I asked if she was SURE she wanted to see her and she said yes. So we looked at her again, very briefly.

She was really sobbing and I knew I had to find a way to calm her down before she went to school so we all sat down and read the kid version of the 23rd Psalm. We had read it before, but this time I explained that sometimes people read it for comfort when they are upset. The kids listened as I read it and asked if Molly was in the green pastures and beside the still waters (she used to love to play in water). I know it is probably not what David intended when he wrote that Psalm, but they made a connection and I think it did bring them some comfort. We closed with a prayer, thanking God for so many good years with Molly and for giving her a peaceful death and I asked God to be with each of the kids during their school day, that they would be able to concentrate and learn and enjoy the company of their friends and that they would think of the happy times with Molly.

Mission accomplished. They all made it through the school day without crying. I however, cried most of the day.

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