Photo by C. Roe

We’ve had a very sad week.  Our beautiful dog, Henri the Husky, died on Monday.  He was fourteen, which is old for a Husky, but he’s been with my husband and I ever since we met, so it’s unthinkable that we won’t have him around any more.

On Monday morning, we were woken by the phone ringing.  It was a neighbour saying they could hear Henri crying near their back fence.  When we got outside we found him lying in a corner, unable to move, having great difficulty breathing and very swollen around the stomach.  As soon as I saw him, I burst into tears because I knew that this was probably the end.  It was quite stressful, seeing him in so much pain, waiting for the vet to open and trying to figure out how to move him, because my husband is on crutches. Thankfully, I was able to get a friend who lives nearby to help me stretcher Henri onto a blanket and carry him to the car.  By the time we finally got to the vet, Henri had gone into shock, lost consciousness and he died a couple of hours later.

Naturally Birdy was pretty upset because Henri was a huge part of her life.  We let her say goodbye to him after he died, but she just kept asking, “Why are we leaving Henri there, Mum?” She also kept saying, “I really love my old dog.”  It was like she just wanted us all to acknowledge that he was special to her.  All that day, she kept trying to find ways to express her emotions and her confusion.  She asked me if Henri would get better after they put him in the hole in the ground.  And she asked my husband whether Henri would be walking ‘where I’m dreaming’.  Later that night, when I was out at a function, she just cried and cried and cried.  But every time she cried, she’d make my husband cry more and vice versa.  At least they were able to grieve together.

I think because we didn’t have a burial or receive any ashes, she’s really struggling to work out where Henri physically is now.  And we’re finding it very difficult to answer her questions in a way that’s honest, but not distressing for her. We didn’t want to tell her he’s in doggy heaven, because… well… there’s probably no such thing.  One tactic that worked quite well was when she said she wanted to see Henri again and I explained to her that she could still see him in her mind.  Then I described to her some of the things they used to do together and asked her if she could see him in her mind.  “Yes I can,” she replied.  It seemed to give her some comfort to realize she could summon him on command in her minds-eye.

Several people have asked me if we’ll get another dog.  I don’t think so.  At least not for a while.  When you’ve had the best dog in the world, well… you just can’t replace them.

Photo by Katrina Roe

Has your family ever lost a much-loved pet?  What happened?  How did you explain it to your children?  How did they react?  Did you get a replacement pet?

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