Thursday, August 2, 2012

supporting children through the death of a pet


On Monday, Carbon noticed something seriously wrong with his pet chinchilla.  After calling all around town, we were able to find a vet that would see a chinchilla, and would see it immediately, and it was confirmed that it was in fact very very serious.  Carbon and his dad made the decision to have the vet put the chinchilla down.

This was the first pet that we've lost in this way, so it was a new grieving experience for the kids.  Past experiences with death have fallen into three categories: outdoor animals who are killed by predators in bloody horrible traumatic incidents, outdoor animals that were intentionally killed (for meat), and indoor pets that just died and were the type of animal (fish, stick-bugs, reptiles) that you don't really take to the vet.

I was touched by how Carbon dealt with his grief.  His first reaction was to go off by himself and write a letter about the chinchilla, and how much he had loved her, and all the wonderful things about her ("the most cuddly pet ever").  He went to the vet, and apparently was very impressive in his desire to do what was best for her and what would be kindest.  And he made plans to bury her in the yard and plant a tree over her.  We ended up steering him toward a burial in the garden and a rose bush over her, but that was accomplished with him doing most of the digging and was a sweet and solemn affair.  He loves the idea of the chinchilla living on in the garden as "her nutrients break down and then become part of all the flowers".

It's a tough life lesson, but a necessary one.  Farewell, sweet Cola.  You were a most excellent cuddly pet.

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