Pet Funeral

9 Oct

I’ve never really had a pet die before.

Plenty of fish in my care of turned belly up and even my very first turtle didn’t last long. But fish don’t really count and that turtle died over twenty years ago. I barely remember.

Since then, I’ve had my turtles….and yep. That’s it, my turtles.

I knew when we got small rodent pets, they wouldn’t live very long. Compared to cats and dogs, rats generally don’t become a family friend for 15 years.

They are a different kind of family friend though. Like an adorable little creature who passes briefly through your life, adding cuteness and cuddles. And some bad smells.

When we brought the rats home, I told the boys we would have about three years with them or, at the very most, five years.

So, I was very surprised and pretty disappointed when one of our rats only made it to five months old. He got the dreaded rat lung infection.

All rats are born with a virus that makes lung infection a possibility but some are more susceptible than others. Even though they were brothers from the same mother (and father), one rat was big and beastly and the other was delicate and sickly. It never really worried me too much until the wee rat started to wheeze. I was worried. But then the wheezing stopped. But then his eyes started looking goopy and he stopped eating.

We decided to take little Brain to the vet but we didn’t act fast enough. As Jason was transferring the rat to the carrying case we rigged up, he had a massive (for his size) seizure and went limp.

We waited a bit to see if he would move again, but it was pretty obvious he was gone. His body was completely limp and cold and his eyes were frozen open. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t cry. JP didn’t really understand why we were upset though he seemed to grasp the fact that the rat wasn’t only sleeping.

We brought the big healthy rat out of his cage and put him close to his poor deceased brother. We wanted him to understand what happened and this seemed like the only way to get the message across.

We put Brain in a tea towel and then into a shoebox. We wanted RJ to have the choice to look at his rat and say goodbye.

I know a lot of people think rats are gross, but the bottom line is: a kid lost his pet. It doesn’t matter what kind of pet it was.

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After RJ got off the school bus, we told him the bad news and he took it really well. He was sad, but he didn’t cry. He was a bit angry we didn’t get him to the vet in time and he expressed worry about the other rat being alone. He was very keen to have a little funeral for dearly departed Brain.

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I personally think it’s very important for kids to be involved in death rituals, even if it’s for a small rat who was with us for only 5 months. Death is a part of life and it shouldn’t be hidden from children; it shouldn’t be a big secret because that just causes confusion and unanswered questions.

Thanks for the cuddles Mr Brain! The Eating Dirt family will miss your sniffly squeaks and your scratchy paws.

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4 Responses to “Pet Funeral”

  1. annie October 16, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    I’m so sorry to hear about Brain. Beautifully written post, thank you for sharing it. I agree that it is so important to involve children in the funeral process. It is a part of life and does not need to be a secret. Also, I have found it easier for us to be more open and comfortable with answering questions about a pet, which in turn makes it easier when it is a person.

    • L.W. October 16, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      I feel like the death of pets is good preparation for other losses, which will undoubtedly happen throughout life. Thanks for the nice words.

  2. Chrissie October 9, 2014 at 11:02 pm #

    Aw I am sorry to hear about your pet! Rats make great pets- very smart! I have never had one personally but I know people who have and I was pretty impressed. I believe it’s a good idea to be truthful to your kids about death as welll, whether it be a pet death or human death. With our first miscarriage both girls were under 2 years old so they didn’t really notice anything. This time however they were 5 and 4 and since my miscarriage happened at a little over 5 months along they were excited and eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new baby brother or sister. I had a little belly and they loved touching it and trying to feel the baby move (i would push my belly out every now and then so they thought baby moved) and always gave my belly a rub and a kiss before bed, and many times through the day. So when we got the heartbreaking news that there was no heartbeat after the ultrasound that was supposed to tell us the sex of the baby we were devastated and crying openly. They asked what was wrong obviously and we told them that the baby had died and so they wouldn’t be getting a new baby brother or sister coming home in a few months. The big question they asked was why of course. We were honest and told them that we didn’t know exactly what happened but that sometimes babies just aren’t growing right and that they just stop growing and breathing. My husband’s father and sister are both deceased and we tell them that they are angels in heaven so we told them that our baby would go to heaven and be with them now and we will see them all again someday. I know that not everyone believes in God or heaven etc but I believe that you can tell children whatever you want to believe and as long as they get answers they will be satisfied. At least until they get older and start hearing other versions and beliefs of other people but that can be dealt with later! They were upset as well but kids handle things so much better than we adults do so they gave us big hugs and our 5 yr old said “it’s ok, our baby will be an angel and watch over us now. ” And our 4 year old said ” now instead of kissing your belly Mama I will blow kisses up to heaven to send to our baby! “. Well I think my heart grew bigger and even tho I was still heartbroken, I felt a bit better because I was amazed at how they thought and how smart they were and how blessed and happy I was to have those 2 little girls! I know it’s a different scenario from losing a pet but in a sense it’s the same because it’s a loss no matter what and I don’t think kids see pets and people any differently- they are both as important and special to them and they love them nomatter what! More adults should be so lucky to have so much love in their hearts for everything, no matter how big or little! I hope that your other rat adjusts to being a single pet now although I’m sure you will all spend more time with him so he doesn’t get lonely.

    • L.W. October 16, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      Thank you for sharing. Your children are learning to deal with grief in a healthy way.

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