Our chocolate Lab is now 12 ½ years old. While she’s been a pretty amazing – and tremendously patient – pet for Ethan throughout the 8 years of his life, her health is declining. During a recent trip to the Vet, we discovered that our sweet girl now has a heart murmur. The vet is running some blood work to see how her other organs are doing before suggesting any potential medications.
In the past year as we’ve watched her gradually slow down, we’ve been discussing with Ethan how large dogs don’t typically live much past about 12. Thankfully death isn’t something Ethan has experienced much yet in his short life. He has lost a couple of pet hermit crabs, but he wasn’t especially attached to them. So I’ve been a little concerned about how he will take it when our one and only dog passes.
Then, a couple of weeks ago when Ethan was looking through our DVD collection for something new to watch on a Friday night, he discovered “My Dog Skip.” It was a relic of our pre-kid days and as I recalled, was a touching and endearing movie about a boy and his dog.
As Ethan and I settled in to watch the movie, we laughed and enjoyed the boy’s adventures with his new dog. And thanks to the spunky and friendly attitude of Skip, we watched eagerly as the boy forged new friendships with neighborhood kids. We cried together as Skip was injured and recovered with prayers and well-wishes from everyone in the community. In the end, we sobbed together as the boy had to say goodbye to Skip to leave for college, as they never got to see one another again.
Honestly, I’ve never seen Ethan experience so much heartfelt sadness “in tune” with the characters when watching a film. A big part of me felt guilty for putting him in a situation that would bring him to such sadness; how can a mother not feel grief when her child is wracked with overwhelming tears? Yet, another part of me felt like this movie, and the emotions experienced through it, could prove to be an important preparatory tool for the inevitable…
We continue to talk about how slow our sweet girl is getting and why she moans and groans more than ever. We talk about what joy she brings to our life and how much she misses us when we’re away for long hours during the day. In the end though, I know that it will be us who miss her terribly when she is gone.
I wonder what else I can do, or should do, to help prepare Ethan for our cherished pet’s death. While it isn’t something I expect to happen right away, it can’t be all that far off either. As I know that many parents raising kids with Asperger’s Syndrome or other ASDs have been in this situation, I’d love to hear what you have done to help prepare your child…Anyone know of a good book for young kids on the subject? Any other good suggestions?
Leigh Attaway Wilcox is a writer and editor for the projectLD family of companies. Leigh is Assistant Editor of the internationally acclaimed AutismSpot.com and her work can be found on many of the pLDNetworks sites. Leigh is a guest blogger for the Dallas Morning News on the Dallas Moms Blog and is the author of ALL BETTER: A Touch-and-Heal Book published by Piggy Toes Press in 2007. Leigh lives in North Texas with her husband and young son who loves reading, LEGOs, Mario Bros. and also happens to live with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.