Hearts of Adoption Options

Erin is the author of “A Mother’s Love” a Hearts of Adoption Options blog that was published on Birthmothers’ Day. Here is another contribution that she has allowed us to share. Grab the tissues...

So a thing happened today. My son behaved expectantly.

Not at first, but it happened.

I’m not sure that any family truly appreciates their pet the way they should. Life is chaos with children in the house and often our pets are just more of that chaos…loveable, furry chaos that helps us ensure our floors are never clean and our clothes are never hair-free.

However, pets play an absolutely enormous role in our lives. I was reminded of that tonight as my family and I sat with our golden doodle while she fell into her forever slumber. (It’s ironic that I just typed that because those types of references have been exactly what we’ve been battling all week.) She is not asleep, the Captain would tell you, she died.

You see, trying to prepare a six year old child with Autism that his dog - and his best friend - is going to die is an incredibly difficult task. There is no room for fluff and softness. There can be no metaphors, no magical places, no heavenly dog-runs - he needed to know where she was going, why she was going there and for how long she would be gone. The talks were raw and real; traumatizingly anatomical even. But the Captain accepted all the words thrown at him as information and went about everyday as though it was the same as the day before. He had no apparent appreciation for the depth of sorrow about to come his way. In fact, I was worried he would feel no sorrow at all. It probably sounds odd to hear a mother say she’s worried her child would feel no sadness, but our son has a natural lack of empathy; an inability to comprehend the emotions of those around him and often his emotional behaviour does not match the circumstance.

Until today.

Today my sweet Casey, the Captain’s best friend, taught him what loss FEELS like.

We try very hard to plan how things are going to ‘go down’ - but that’s never how it works. We had planned on leaving the kids at home when we took Casey to the vet - but the Big Kid, entirely hysterical, felt she needed to be with her in the car. With our built-in babysitter no longer providing her babysitting services, we were forced to bring the Captain along for the ride as well. Following this adjustment, we had planned on the children staying in the car while the parents took the dog in. (go ahead, report us.) This plan lasted right up until it was time to take Casey into the building. Suddenly the Captain, who had remained completely mechanical and detached throughout the entire day, snapped into action and refused to leave Casey’s side. The Big Kid then tumbled out of the back of the vehicle, refusing to leave the Captain’s side and so the four of us, heads hanging, stumbled into the clinic, our beloved dog in tow.

I’m not sure what that would have looked like to the staff who stayed after hours for us. I mean, who brings their small child in to watch a pet die?

“He has Autism,” I squeaked out.

“He feels he needs to be here.”

With a nod she led us into a room and put a blanket down for Casey.

As soon as the door closed the Captain started firing questions. “Hey-hey-hey…d-d-don’t you have needles that help dogs stay alive instead of needles to make them die?” he asked her forcefully. The assistant’s eyes instantly filled with tears and she shot a look my way. “I’ll give you some time,” she said before slipping out the door.

“That’s not how it works, baby,” I answered.

“I-I-I-I don’t want to be here, let’s take Casey home,” he spat tearless, but clearly uncomfortable. The Big Kid, inconsolable and yet still prepared, pulled her iPod out of her pocket and handed it to him. He sat in the corner and became engrossed in his game, seemingly unaffected by the tears of his parents and sister.

Shortly after, the vet came in and prepared us for our goodbye. As he stuck the plunger into her catheter, the Captain hopped out of his chair, stood right beside the veterinarian and surprised us all when a sound climbed out of his throat and through the air. He was crying. No, he wasn’t just crying, he was sobbing - broken and jagged as he begged Casey not to die.

This sounds horrific, I know.

It was.

And also, it wasn’t.

Today our Casey gave our Captain the opportunity to feel. Feelings, my friends, are a gift. How would we recognize happiness if not for recognizing sadness? In her final moments she blessed my son with the gift of realizing his love for her.

Today my son behaved expectantly.

Not at first, but it happened.

{goodnight, sweet Casey}.

-Erin Peden