Charlie, We Hardly Knew You.

When I was a little girl, I would love listening to my father’s stories of owning a poodle when he lived in Denmark. I dreamt of having a dog of my own. My father would often take me to the pet store to pet puppies. Their little faces begging me to pick them up and care for them made my little heart melt.

My mother’s exact words about getting a dog was more or less “Over my dead body“- she was not a fan of animals, especially the thought of having an animal live in her house (plus I’m sure the work of caring for it would fall on her).

We lived in NY, and didn’t have much of a back yard, so owning a dog became a moot topic.

As I got older my love for animals diminished. I didn’t care much for them, and never felt the need to get a pet. In my mind they were dirty, ruined your stuff and were way too much responsibility.

Two months ago my sister-in-law called me up and said she was bringing a dog home. She found a small stray by her work  and decided to take him in.

Since my sil lives in a house right behind our house, we thought it would be good for  all of our kids to have a dog.  Plus, we live in a farm town, so really it was a plus.

It was love at first sight.

 I asked her if I could name him, she didnt mind.

He looked like a Charlie.

And so, it was.

I took most of the responsibility caring for Charlie. I fed him, gave him love and we bonded.

My daughter Soleil was SCARED TO DEATH of him, refusing to leave the house if he was outside.

Neve on the other hand loved him.

About 3 weeks in, Charlie went missing.

We never tied him up, so really- he could have been anywhere.

We had a theory that a next door neighbor wanted him gone, so they drove him out to the fields (which btw may have turned out to be true).

I was sad and so were the kids (you know, everyone except Soleil)

I missed my little bugger.

3 weeks later- my 9-year-old nephew came racing to my house telling me that he knew where Charlie was. A family had found him in the fields and when he approached them about the dog being his, they didn’t believe him and asked for proof.

I drove my car, with my iphone filled with pictures of Charlie and explained the situation to the family.

They believed me, and brought Charlie in from their backyard.

Once he saw me he jumped on me, and peed all over the floor. He was excited. He also inadvertently made me drop my iphone and cracked my screen. I didn’t care- Charlie was found!

 I immediately went to the store, bought him a bright yellow collar with a name tag so  that if he were to get lost again he could be returned.

He loved his freedom, roaming around the estate playing.

I really had a soft spot for him.

It was nice having him home.

But of course, nothing is forever.

I got a call.

Charlie was hit by a car.

 He died.

My heart stopped.

I had just found him 3 days earlier!!

How was he dead?

My nephew saw him laying there on the side of the road, with his bright yellow collar.

A part of me wishes that I had tied him up, but what kind of life is  that?

A part of me wishes that I would have left him with the other family. Maybe his fate would have been different?

Neve keeps asking when Charlie is coming home, and I say that he’s not- that his mommy found him and took him home.

I mean, how can you explain death  to a 4-year-old.

I want to protect them and shield them from the sad and unfair in this world as long as I can.

Because it is sad and unfair.

I mean, I finally bonded with an animal for the first time in my life and I got burned.

Anyway.

Is there something I should be explaining to my kids about Charlie’s whereabouts, or should I just continue to say his mom found him and took him home?

Advice?

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8 thoughts on “Charlie, We Hardly Knew You.

  1. Lisa

    We got my daughter a fish for her third birthday last year. She liked the fish, looked at him once a week or so, helped feed him. Wasn’t all THAT into him. Sadly, little fishy died about a month ago. She did not notice. We flushed fishy, put the water back in the tank and hoped she would not notice & ask because we did not know what to say. Well, she noticed about a week ago…. And I told her that the fishy got sick and went to heaven. She was like heaven, what is that? So then the questions kept going. Until finally I told her that he died. In fact I kept going with it, eventually it will be something more than a fish that dies, so I figured lets just tell the ugly truth. WeI told her that everything dies: leafs, flowers, grass, trees, cats, dogs, bugs, etc. And that when anything dies, something new is born to keep life going. She ran to her room balling hysterically. And then I more splaining to do. I felt awful but- I just told her the truth, everyone and everything has a purpose, comes to have a great life (liar!!) and when it is their time, they will die. People too. Now she gets it and will say that a new thing is born when something dies, etc. But I dont think she really gets that actual people die, even though I said they do. So I will not bring that one up again anytime soon. As hard as it is, my personal opinion is to tell them, when you feel its time. It was not fun!! I am sorry about Charlie. He was a cutie! Maybe a cat next time that stays indoors? Less chance of death perhaps?
    Good luck to you- Lisa

    Reply
  2. Brandy

    My now 5 year old has had two dogs die in the last 2 years. One was old and sick and the other was middle aged but sick for a long time. I was careful with how I told her about it. I did tell her that everything dies. I did talk about heaven too.
    I think its crummy that she knows about this but maybe someday it will make it easier for her. A couple of days ago her grandma received a love letter my daughter wrote her. Her grandma told her she loved it and that she’d treasure it forever. My daughter said, you can’t treasure it forever because one day you’ll be dead. Nice. But a part of me thought it was funny. I do tell her one thing lasts forever….love. Even when someone or some living thing we love dies, the love is forever.

    Reply
  3. KJ and the Kids

    OH my sitting here crying ! How sad to lose a pet.
    Kids are resilient and it’s best just to tell them the truth.
    I think they’ll get over it quicker if you go and get another dog. immediately. because I want you to have another little furry dog to keep you company.

    So sorry.

    Reply
  4. jackie

    my advice is to tell the girls….we had a cat that passed and our pediatrician suggested we just tell my daughter that they cat is gone…that it went away. She didn’t think that my daughter was old enough to understand and wouldn’t question what I told her.
    Well, my daughter just kept asking about the cat and where was she and when was she coming home, etc. Not telling the truth was the worst mistake for us.
    I think it is best to explaint the pet died. Kids process death differently than adults but best to tell them the truth and deal with whatever question they have.
    When our fish died, she was really sad but wouldn’t let me flush the fish. We buried it outside so she could visit it. We also told her pre-k teacher. They turned the day into talking about pets and read a book about a pet dying. She was sad but seemed to understand that everything dies.
    This sort of thing is never easy-good luck with whatever you decide. Sorry about your dog. ;-(

    Reply
  5. edenland

    Oh mate he was SO CUTE.

    I’m so sorry.

    I have no advice … we do have a dog, but I purposely try not to get too close to her, because we had SO many revolving pets when I was a kid I got badly burned when they all got taken away.

    XOX

    Reply
  6. Janet

    Nothing frustrates me more than telling kids that they are gone or my sister’s go to “they went to a farm” yes death stinks and is no fun but it is life and why not be the one to teach them about death and sorrow and healing… MUCH better than them finding out in 5yrs or by some punk kid who has zero concern for their feelings about it………… Plus it’s ok to be sad and miss them and process this thing called life/death. They are 4 and can get this to an extent. Then eventually get another pup but yes, keep it on leash when outside…… He was super duper cute..

    Reply

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