Recently, while trying to accept the loss of one of my own felines, I found myself asking the question: "If we, as adults, have such a hard time coping with the loss of an animal, how in the world do we explain to children that it is all right to be sad?"
I found the answer in a paperback, cartoon-type publication titled "They're Part Of The Family: Barklay And Eve Talk To Children About Pet Loss," written and illustrated by Karen L. Carney.
This publication is one of an eight-part series of publications that help children get through different experiences in life that may be difficult. The advice this little book offers can help us grown-ups cope with pet loss easier.
The dogs that interact in the book are the author's own. The book begins with the introduction and premise that "we can get through anything with the love and support of our family and friends." The book is interactive, with pictures for children to color, games and a series of questions to begin the healing process.
Then we get to the big question: "Do you know what it means when your pet dies? Their eyes don't see, their ears don't hear, their heart does not beat ... Their lungs don't breathe ... They don't feel any pain ... They don't feel anything at all."
The book goes on to explain about the spirit leaving the body and going to "a safe place called heaven." This experience is analogous to a butterfly leaving its cocoon.
What really impressed me was that the book explains the difference between death and sleep. Death is permanent and there is no waking.
The book continues on with three animal stories on death and how each family shares happy memories, scrapbooks together, and decides where the final resting place will be.
This book is presented in real terms children can understand and feel good about. My only disappointment in this book is the feline story, because the cat is killed by a car. "What was it doing outside?" It is explained away by an "accident." Remember, "inside only" for Buddy's felines. This policy keeps your feline safe from physical harm and diseases.
Overall, I would still say the book is a good find. For more information on the book and others in the series, visit barklayandeve.com.
I have an additional suggestion regarding the loss of a pet. If you decide as a family that cremation is the solution to the loss, involve your child in the process of picking the urn.
There are hundreds online; some are breed- and color-specific, including elegant cherry or rosewood engraved boxes. Some local funeral homes are also beginning to understand the significance of a loss of a pet as a family member and offer a small selection of urns.
You can further memorialize your pet in The Buddy Foundation walkway in the entry path to the shelter. With your brick purchase, you will assist Buddy in helping more homeless animals. I cannot imagine a more honorable tribute for your beloved pet.
Bess is a spayed, dark tortoiseshell that has elegant, long hair. She is 8 months old and began her life on a bumpy road. Her feline mom abandoned her under some bushes at an unoccupied farmhouse. Neighboring farmers fed and cared for her until she could be brought to Buddy. Despite her rocky start, she is a gentle, social, loving, big kitten.
Eden is a spayed, black and white, 8-month-old kitten that may have some Siamese or similar breed mix to her. Her face is unusually elongated and wedgelike. She has loads of personality and is gentle despite being abandoned on the doorsteps of a kill shelter. She was promptly rescued and brought to Buddy.
Meows of Gratitude
Recently, the story of Jordan was released and well wishes and donations were forthcoming.
The Buddy Foundation would like to use this forum as a public thank you instead of acknowledging each one individually.
For those of you who do not recall Jordan's story, here is a brief recap: Jordan is an 18-year-old cat that was put out to almost starve to death. Her weight fell to a mere 3 pounds. While she was begging for food, she was sprayed in the face with a chemical agent that almost blinded her.
She is currently doing much better, but still lacks what she needs most: her "forever home."
• Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit us at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, or online at thebuddyfoundation.org.