Heartache is difficult to grasp as the origin of each anguish is different. Even when the origination of the wound is the same, the affect is different. My mother has been in Heaven now for 8 years, but I reflect upon the vast difference in how each one of my family members came to accept her departure. She left behind her parents and a sister, along with a husband and two kids. Each one of us came to acceptance of her passing at a different time and in a different way.
I don’t see the difference until tragedy presents itself in my sphere once more. This past Sunday, our family was forced to say goodbye to our beloved family dog. Perry would have been 4 years old on July 4th. And even though he was our “family” dog, each family member had a different relationship with him. Common characteristics in our roles in the family came to light in this unfortunate event. Perry was squirrely and cantankerous. He came to us as an only child as the other puppies in his litter had died at birth. We were unaware that this would matter, but the more people we spoke with concerning his behavior, the more we were made aware that only child puppies possess Alpha Dog demeanors. He was a jealous dog and did not play well with other dogs. He was a terror to anyone who made him feel threatened – even us. His worst behavior was experienced by our loyal groomer who tried time and time again to make him look the way a schnauzer is to look. Apparently, Perry disagreed with the groomer and wanted to look like a rooster as many times she would have to forfeit trying to groom his backside resulting in a tuft of hair sticking out like an alpha male chicken. Fitting.
Perry hated to be alone, so whenever you threatened to go into another room or downstairs or out the door, he was hot on your heels. At the same time, there are many mornings when we would get up and forget to let him out and realize it only because one of us asked where he was. He was quietly sitting in his crate waiting on someone to notice. He couldn’t open doors and it was quite funny. He would sit at the top of our stairwell from our basement with the door cracked and just sit on the top stair not making a sound AND not attempting to push the door open. So many more Perry stories, but I shall save them.
Sunday evening was so hard. My husband had the unfortunate challenge of not only discovering our beloved beast, but also to do the fatherly duty of burying him. Yes, we bury our pets. They are a part of our family and deserve to rest in peace as well. Our little man let the alpha dog get the best of him and challenged a car for the last time. The mother in me grieved through that role. Not just the role as the mother of my two little girls, but the mother of Perry. It was my responsibility to make sure he was safe, so I immediately felt extreme guilt that I let him go out without a leash in our new home. Then I accept that horrible error next to decipher as to whether he suffered. He is a child of mine and I do not want for any of them to hurt.
Then we go into problem solving mode – how do we tell the girls? How long can we wait, or rather, how long can we keep them distracted? My husband did something for my girls that I never had done for me. My husband allowed them closure. I was petrified at what scarring images might be sustained for them, but yet God was faithful and it was just what they needed. Perry was still soft and sweet and appeared to be asleep, so they were able to tell him goodbye and remember him in a fond and comforting way. They knew he didn’t suffer. Their hearts were able to take that as one of the bandaids.
Yet the two of them have grieved differently as well. My oldest, sobbed – well, they both sobbed. However, after a time of expressing of emotions, she put on her big girl pants and began consoling her sister. Nevertheless, she is my enormous sentiment laced girl. She is a horder because everything has meaning. Sometimes it is for good though as it serves as a part of her coping mechanism. When we got home that evening, she dug to the bottom of her stuffed animals and found the plush schnauzer we gave her. She has carried it everywhere since then. I don’t know how much longer she will, but I allow it as I know that she is grieving and healing through that comfort. She is reflecting and remembering and processing it all in her very sharp little mind.
My youngest sobbed, then found excitement in a little escape with some friends, and then the moment she thought of him again, she sobbed again. You see, it is different for her in their relationship. Perry slept with Abigail. He was her buddy. She loved him VERY MUCH. So I hurt for both girls, but I know that she lost a friend, and unfortunately it is not the first actual friend that Abbi has had to grieve in her 6 short years.
Abigail’s coping mechanism is also tied to her personality. If you haven’t met her, she is my dramatic and creative child. (Emma is 85 in a 9 year old body – but that is for another day) So as I have watched Abigail process this, I am aware that her grieving patterns are consistent, for she did the same thing when she lost one of her best friends last July. Abigail continues the story. You have probably done that also in your life, but Abigail’s story is full of life and joy and connects all of her family and friends. She has talked nonstop about Perry since Sunday night and so far, Perry is in Heaven playing with her baby sister and protecting her like the alpha dog does. He is receiving treats from Grandpa and being fed table scraps by my mother. Perry is running and playing with Lily Belle, Abbi’s friend, causing constant giggling. Perry is giving other people joy that are important to her and those other people are happy as she wants them to be. She wants that same joy for all she comes in contact with here as well. She is so special.
Then there is Jeremy. He’s the tough guy, so not to be bothered by the death of a pet. He loved Perry; sometimes more than me. His heart was wrenched and as most men do, he went into the blame game. It was his fault that all of this happened and if he had done a better job of doing x or providing y or being z, than this wouldn’t have happened. The truth is, it most likely would have happened. Perry mattered to my girls. Satan knew that. After the great adventure we have been on, he was mad that we were unmoved. So he attacked a weak spot. Think about it. The moments in your life when you are actually mobile for the greater calling, Satan comes at you like a spider monkey attacking from every angle until you crumble.
I know he was just a dog, but he was special to my babies. So attacking my babies makes mama bear mad. However, I am determined to use this anger for God’s glory. That mama bear is God acting through me driving me to prevent Satan’s hold on my family. That mama bear is because God created me as a being that is capable of feeling. I’m so thankful to be under attack. I’m squaring my shoulders and putting on my gear. For Perry! OK, really - For God!