♥ The Owl and Puppy Dog: A Lesson in How Children Mourn
We had some difficulty. . . . keeping our pets out of heaven.
Figaro, a pretty little Beta fish, a birthday gift given to Joyful from a friend died twice. Once when Joyful was away visiting grandparents. We cheated death, though. The fish store had one that looked just like him. Joyful never knew. However, he died one Christmas when we went to visit family for a few days. Figaro had enough food. Sadly, we learned never to turn the heat down below 65 degrees when you have a pet fish.
Cozzette, Copper, Nanna, Figaro, Cleo—all our pets have been named after literary characters. We’ve debated the non-literary name, “Memore” so when the boys ask, “Do you love Memore,” I can say, “Yes.” However, the name never makes it past election day.
We had one cat who kept throwing herself on the driveway when we pulled in. She was an indoor/outdoor cat. She’d rush to the driveway, lay down and stretch, just daring us to not stop. One Sunday, a week after Easter, she flung into her driveway dare, then finally moved when she decided we wouldn’t run over her. Pulling into the garage, we paused, thinking she’d run in like usual. Apparently she achieved her life long goal of throwing herself under the wheel.
She went to heaven.
However, one Saturday death came to call in a very surreal way.
It was a beautiful, autumn Saturday. We had been searching for Copper since the day before. Our neighbor thought our lassie dog, Copper, had been clipped by a car. We lived out in the country, so we let Copper have the run of the fields behind us. However, anything that drove down our dead-end road became part of Copper’s “herd.” He didn’t want it to leave his “boundaries.” He could run 35 miles an hour.
You know how John Wayne was a man’s man? Well, Copper was a boy’s dog. Not only did he keep our yard cleared of snakes, opossums, and unwelcome critters, but he was a great soccer player, too. A constant companion! A bouncing mass of joy that loved nature: the birds, the deer, a butterfly. He just loved!
He taught us humbleness with our neighbors. During his first Christmas, he brought us all our neighbors’ wreaths they had placed on their windows. If he’d just brought two more, we would have had enough for ours! I guess counting wasn’t one of his strengths.
When our children went anywhere, hiking into the woods, visiting a neighbor, he was 4 steps behind them—every time!
Faithful wanted to be a vet he loved him so.
Until that autumn day in Saturday. My husband had left to coach a soccer game. I loaded up the van to take the boys and meet him when I heard this faint cry.
The sun shined through the fiery red, pumpkin orange, and burnt yellow leaves, landing on a carpet of leaves. The floor of the woods was covered in these colors. Copper blended in perfectly. That’s why we’d missed him. He couldn’t move. I couldn’t figure out to move him.
I called the vet’s emergency number. It was a Saturday, so hours were short and time expensive. I was a bundle of stress. Joyful came in, pulling on me, “Mom! Mom! You gotta see this. You gotta see what’s coming out of the woods.”
I put him off. After all, I’d seen every critter in the woods so far—the snakes, oppossums, turkeys, raccoons, flying squirrels, turtles, toads. I needed to handle this crisis.
He just wouldn’t let up, “Mom! Mom!” He was 6 then. I had a baby buckled in the van, another waiting to play a soccer game I was beginning to suspect he might miss, a severely injured pet, and he was wanting me to see some piddly thing outside?
I finished the consult with the vet and took a deep breath. Joyful just wouldn’t give an inch. “Mom! Mom! You gotta see this.”
Finally, I relented. Shaking inside because things didn’t look good for Copper, frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how to get him to the van, I stepped outside.
My jaw dropped. Stunned, I lifted the phone, hit redial, calling the vet’s emergency line again,” Hi, I’m the lady who just called with the injured collie. Well, I got an injured owl. What do I do?”
Standing by the open door to the driver’s seat stood a huge owl, mostly black, some white, its feathers all poofed out in disarray. One wing, apparently broken, seemed to be pointing to my driver’s seat, as if to say, “After you! Hurry and take me to the vet, too?”
At that moment, my neighbor’s drove by. I had fought asking them for help. It was their 50th wedding anniversary. They had out-of-town guests. I so didn’t want to be needy.
It was if God sent that owl to break me totally down. Only in the state of total broken-downness would I have asked for help. That’s a message that seared through my soul that day.
My neighbors helped put Copper on a sheet where we tucked him into the back of the van. We popped a tall, round wicker basket over the owl, nestled him next to Joyful. The owl never made a sound until the vet picked up the basket. Then you could hear the very distinct sound of his ivory beak clicking together.
The vet called later that afternoon. The state wildlife department would pay to fix and rehabilitate the owl. Copper wasn’t so lucky. They wanted $1,000 for surgery. They weren’t sure it would work. After much heart-wrenching discussion, my husband made the call to put him down.
We explained it to the Joyful and Faithful. Faithful wailed. He was nine. He got angry, stomping upstairs in emotional desolation.
Joyful followed, calling out from behind, “Mom and Dad say the vet will put Copper to sleep and then he’ll go to heaven.”
Faithful wailed louder. It was like Joyful was just tearing at his wound. It wasn’t like him to deliberately hurt someone. I called Joyful back. “How can you do that to him? That’s tearing him up.”
Then Joyful started crying. My heart just opened up. Joyful had been mourning. Only he didn’t wail, stomp, and snuffle about. Joyful released his grief through talking.
These two mourners needed to mourn separately, one emotionally pouring out their grief, one logically tackling their grief.
I learned a lot that day—about the differences in the ways people react to crisis, that making the decision to end a life is gut wrenching, and that God wants me to ditch my pride, to not wait until I reach rock bottom to ask for help.
The owl, though, he so puzzles me.
Such a difficult thing to deal with, he sounded a lovely dog. I am dreading if something happens our cat that he does not survive. He is always getting into scrapes and needed £2000 worth of vet bills when he was tackled by a fox – thank heavens for pet insurance.
Hi from SITS and Northern Ireland.
Stopping by from SITS. Your writing is beautiful and captivating. I’m so sorry for the loss of your pets. What wonderful memories you must have with them all though for the loss to be so impactful.
May the Lord bless your day!
That was so touching and beautifully written.
Tania (via SITS)
Thank you for commenting on my post at 5 Minutes for Faith. We recently had a cat tragedy. We had five cats and now we have four. It was very hard to deal with and dad was not here to help. Agh.
Very good post! Have a great day!
I came over here from SITS and I’m so glad I did. This was beautiful. I can relate to this, too…we lost our dog, one of our cats, two pet mice, and three fish all this year. My kids have had their share of “pet funerals” for sure.
Have a great day!
Stopping by from SITS. What a beautiful story, and one that your kids can learn so much from.
Oh man… I just dealt with animal death last week, and will be posting on it later this week. My kids dealt with it totally differently also. One really kept it inside, and the other was crying and freaking out.
I’m sure it won’t be our last dead animal situation, but it was our first and I was so unprepared.
I think we’re all through it now though. I so enjoy your blog. It just always seems to be what I need to read right at the moment, and never ceases to bless my heart!
This broke my heart. Very beautiful dog. So sorry for your loss.
A beautiful story. Of humility. Difficult decisions. Death.
You’re such a perceptive mother. You recognized how your sons needed to grieve in their own separate ways over the loss of their best friend.
What a heart wrenching story! And very thought provoking…
I just wanted to stop by and thank you for the lovely comment you left for me on my blog. You were truly a blessing for me today!
I have actually began to doubt if my story was even reaching people let alone helping them. I have such a heart for parents, like yourself, who have experienced loss. However, I have found that my daughter’s story sometimes tends to rub more salt in the wound, instead of helping like I intended.
So thank you again for your encouragement. 🙂
This was such a wonderfully written, though so sad, and moving story. Wow.
We faced a similar crisis when we had to put our cat to sleep due to terminal illness that was making her suffer great pain. And you’re right, we all react to grief differently but in the end, it’s the comforting love of our family that brings us through. That owl, I do believe is a blessing in disguise. You lost someone yet you saved one at the same time.
Beautiful but so sad. I will absolutely fall apart when I get there. I can’t even type what “there” is!
It is so true how kids react differently. So sad about your cat and dog though. 🙁 Stopping by from SITS
I never can handle it well when a pet member of the family leaves for heaven. That cat, oh how sad it must have been. And Copper… and the owl… and the two look alike fish.
Will surely look forward to visiting you in heaven, to see for myself how these animal friends look like.
I have a few pets waiting for me up there too!
You definitely did the right thing. There was no need for Copper to be in any more pain. It sucks when our kids learn lessons like that. It hurts so much and there’s nothing we as mamas can do about it. The owl thing is very odd. Maybe sometime in the future it will make more sense? Hindsight is 20/20…
I had to go through something with my son’s hamster and I think I was more broken up than he was. I fear for the day we lose the family dog, because he’s been with us for 7 years and I expect another 7 more.
What a beautiful post. My heart breaks for the loss of your beloved collie, and the pain your boys struggled through. I’m sure a hole is left in your hearts.
The owl is an amazing part of the story! He is kind of a puzzle.
We recently dealt with the loss of our 13 y/o Pomeranian. I blogged about it but I’m not sure if you saw it when you stopped by. Here’s the link in case you’re interested:
It happened while I was in the hospital the last time. That made it easier and harder to bear all at the same time.
It is SO very difficult to lose our pets. I never thoroughly understood just how difficult it can be until our own dog died. I had never really been an animal person until we got our dog. Then he really grew on me.
Since his death, we have gotten a new puppy. (I blogged about him, too.) The pain of losing our dog is obviously still there, but the new puppy is certainly helping to ease things a little bit.
I am also amazed by the story of your owl. They are very beautiful creatures.
Hope you and your family are starting to heal in your own way.
It is hard when dogs die, they are so good at being by your side all the time. It is hard when they aren’t.
It is so hard even as an adult to lose a beloved pet. After all, they are a member of the family. Watching children go through the heart break is even harder. It is a good lesson to them as well.
What a great message as to how we all deal with grief differently. And to not be afraid to ask for help. I often wonder why so many of us are that way.
Thanks for stopping by my blog and letting me know about Jason Upton’s music. I had never heard of him before.
Wow! What an animal story and a story about grief. You were doing the best you could with what you had and the circumstances there were.
I feel bad about Copper. We had a Collie when I was a teen. He was hit by a car, he had surgery and he died the next morning. It was so sad. My brother took it real hard.
Great real life post. Thanks
I tagged you in the Five Things I Love About Summer challenge. Come by and see mine.
What a moving story. Your writing is a deLIGHT.
Oh, I know I don’t look it, but I’m Cherokee…born and raised. In our culture, an owl often represents insight…deeper vision….Now I have chills.
What a wonderful story. I’m going to carry it with me all day…we had to put down Dally’s pony at Christmas time…just the emotions you got through do lead to insight. And make you feel a little helpless at the same time….
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