An Unappealing Part of Parenting

Note: I was working on a list of New Year's resolutions for the blog, but decided to go with this post instead.

After a being slow to post here and comment on other blogs due to the holidays, I am looking forward to a return to normal next week.

Happy New Year and best wishes to everyone in 2010.


One lousy yet official duty of being a parent is having to tell your children when one of their beloved pets has died.

This will be my second my time.

Though our friend has not passed away yet, it will happen soon.

A few years ago, I had to tell the oldest boy that my springer spaniel pal for so many years (I have to admit that we grew up together), was no more.

Soon, I'll have to tell the same boy and now his younger sister (as the youngest boy would not understand) that their family cat has passed.

At 16 or so, the gray-tabby is a great underdog story. She was a stray in the South for the first portion of her life.

I was walking my dog at my girlfriend/future wife's apartment complex when this skinny little fluff trotted from the woods and followed us up the stairs to the Mrs.' door. Preoccupied with trying to keep the dog from jumping the brave feline, I went inside the apartment and thought nothing more of the encounter.

Fifteen minutes later, the Mrs. heard loud meowing from the stairwell. She opened her door and in strolls this cat.

Evidently, we had been selected by "Emmy."

I still remember my father, a career Marine holding back his tears, informing my brother and I each time that one of our family canines had died. Telling children news like that does not get any easier through the years.

Last January, Bill Simmons, a fantastic writer known for his perspective on sports, authored a moving tribute to his family dog: Daisy or "The Dooze."

The entire article is worth the read, but his closing perceptively captures what bothers parents the most when family pets are no longer:

...The day after The Dooze left us, our little boy woke up and my wife carried him downstairs to feed him like she always does.

I was still half asleep and could hear her footsteps. Then I heard this: "Day-zee. Day-zee."

That part didn't make me sad.

The part that made me sad happened three mornings later ... when my wife was carrying him downstairs again and he didn't say anything.


Update: Our family pet passed away this morning (1/10/09), and the message was delivered to our kids. Thanks for your kind words.


angelcel said...

Pets are very much members of the family to us too and so losing them is truly heartbreaking. So sorry you're having to face this right now.

My warmest wishes to you and your family for the coming year.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Okay, something just fell out of my insides after reading that Simmons quote.

I don't know how I will handle it when my beloved now 13-year-old Shiba passes on. My kids are older, so I suppose we will all process it together.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family this year. If nothing else, your pet will find peace and be with God on some level.

ooglebloops said...

The hardest thing in life is a family member passing- the furry guys are family members too. Unfortunately, their time with us is way too short. Thanks for the links. The best of everything to you and yours in 2010.

Expat From Hell said...

A nice and moving change of pace for you, dear SlamDunks. I have enjoyed following you and your musings this year, and look forward to more growth between us in 2010. Great work is going on here....EFH

Stephanie Faris said...

I didn't have my first pet until I was in my 20s...and losing him in my 30s was devastating. My niece was heartbroken too...but her mom told her. Not being a mom, I've been spared that part of it. I don't know how I'd handle it...I do know I find solace in this poem:

J. J. in Phila said...

Our dog was 16 when we had to have him put down. It was sad, but he was suffering.

I'll be mentioning you again on the CDT blog.

terri said...

I'm so sorry. We had to have our Springer put down, about a year and a half ago now. It was my kids' first experience with losing a pet, and my first with having to be the decision maker. That was one of the hardest days of my life. It's what keeps me from being sure I want to get another dog. We do have two cats who are now about 13 & 14 years, and I worry their time will come too soon too.

hurstburst said...

This is so timely. Just a couple of days ago my nine year old son called to me from his room. One of his beloved fish had passed on. He was inconsolable for about a half hour. We can never get a dog or cat. The trauma of loosing a pet that had become a family member would be too much!

JennyMac said...

I was heartbroken when our dog died. I cant imagine how hard it is to tell your children. Sorry SD.

Natalie said...

This is one of the main reasons that we don't have animals in our home. My hubby isn't a dog person and I have just enough of an animal dander allergy for it to be an excuse, but I have SUCH a soft spot for animals.

It was Christmas Eve 3 years ago when my family's beloved golden retriever of nearly 18 years had a stroke, slipped on the ice, and wasn't discovered until around midnight almost frozen to death in the backyard. Needless to say, it wasn't the best Christmas but we were ready to let her go the day after the "holiday."

She was always such an intelligent dog, and I think she knew that we were going to help her make the pain go away when my brothers and mom brought her to the vet's.

She's buried under some big pine trees at my grandparent's house in the country next to a few other beloved pets from various cousins and family members.

My son was only a few months old, but I could never put myself through that again, let alone telling my children their beloved pet of so many years was gone.

May you find the strength to look at the big picture. Sorry for the hijack!

Holly said...

I so dread the day when I have to tell my kiddos that our dog (who is 12) is gone. I remember every dog I had growing up and how sad I was when it was their time....the most memorable one being Summer dog who we found hanging on to life after seeing Benji (I have never watched Benji again).

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

So sad! My hubs is dreading the day something happens to one of our pets becuase he knows that I'll be a basketcase. Good luck to you!

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comments all and warm wishes.

@ Expat: I am hoping for more growth as well.

@ Steph: Thanks for the link.

@ Terri: I am sorry for your loss. My parents bought my Springer when I was a young single guy who needed to learn responsibility. What a powerful lesson of friendship it was.

@ HurstBurst: The role of parents in the loss is difficult. Trying to find the "right" words to comfort is a challenge--no matter what type of pet died.

@ Natalie: That must have been difficult. The Mrs. here is similar--she dislikes the shedding and is just fine avoiding the pet attachments.

Janna Qualman said...

I'm so sorry, slamdunk. I haven't had to go through this with my kids yet, but our family dog (who's been around longer than either of them) is aging fast, and there's no telling how long she'll be around. Knowing how I myself am affected by the death of a pet, it's going to be a hard road.

Erin said...

What a punch to the gut. I feel like so many people have lost pets this year. I'm sorry you're going through this.

Slamdunk said...

Update: Our family pet passed away this morning (1/10/09), and the message was delivered to our kids.

Thanks for your kind words.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Sending good thoughts your way...

Slamdunk said...

I appreciate your kindness Katherine.

Oz Girl said...

Oh Slam, I'm so, so sorry. I well know how difficult it is to lose our pets, when they have wiggled their way into our hearts. It leaves a hole in our hearts. I hope your kids took the news alright... I can't imagine how difficult it was for you to give them this news. :-( Hugs to all of you ~

Slamdunk said...

@ Oz: Thanks Susan.