In April, for my daughter’s seventh birthday she got her first pet. A lop eared, albino rabbit called Waffles. The rabbit quickly became part of the family but as the weeks passed we realised it would be kinder all round if she was spayed. She was grumpy, she was nesting and my God could that rabbit dig! Anyway, a trip to the vet was arranged for a pretty routine op and then the unthinkable happened. Waffles had a reaction to the anesthetic and despite the superhuman efforts of the vets she died 24 hours later. So we are pet-less again but here is what the whole sorry episode taught me:
- My sensitive, gentle seven year old is really quite tough – yes, she was sad when I told her that Waffles had died but there were no hysterics or hours of wailing. A few tears, a massive hug and she was happy to continue with her day. OK she wasn’t bounding about the place like Tigger but her quiet, reflective reaction made me realise Megan’s made of steelier stuff than I often give her credit for
- Four year olds can be very perceptive – the day after we got the news, the classic song “The love I lost” came on the radio. Cue Henry, 4, “The love I lost was Waffles”. Out of the mouth of babes…
- Mums get blamed for everything – the worst bit about breaking the news to Megan was when she turned on me. It was my fault Waffles was at the vet. I was the one who wanted her spayed. She was quite happy with her as she was (grief seemed to have erased from her memory just how moody, broody and uncooperative Waffles had become). As a mum, my shoulders are meant to be broad, and I wasn’t going to try to reason with an irrational seven year old, but I’d be lying if I said her accusations didn’t hurt
- Pets can be replaced but it’s not the same – the decision was quickly made to replace Waffles when we get back from holiday but in no way has that lessened the sadness we are all feeling. The new rabbit will be loved and cuddled and be great – but it won’t be Megan’s first pet and it won’t be Waffles and I’m quite proud that in this age of commodity the kids haven’t regarded their pet as instantly replaceable
- Vets and veterinary nurses are superhuman, caring professionals – throughout the unexpected 24 hours of trauma I had regular updates from the vets who loved and cared for Waffles as if she belonged to them. True heroes who went well beyond the call of duty.
- I’m as soft as the next person – I like the world to think I’m a tough nut (although my close friends and family know the truth) but even now every time I catch a glimpse of the empty hutch I feel a stab of sadness. We only had her a few months but somehow that pesky rabbit had burrowed into our hearts. Damn!
How have you and yours coped with the death of a pet? Any advice? I’d love to hear your stories…