by Leonard Rego
It's always hard to lose a loved one. Sometimes, these loved ones can be pets you've grown to love over the years, or even a few days. Whether as small as Gerard the gerbil or as large as Labrador Lassie, pets who pass away will always be missed.
By the time they are ten years old, most kids have already bid an animal buddy farewell. I've lost some too, including our dear dog Dazzle, our cat Baby Gene, a few birds, and a few more fish.
Why did it have to happen?
I was confused at that age - "Why did my lil' buddy have to die? Where will he go now? Is there a doggie heaven?" I had loads of questions on my mind.
But my mum and dad always had the answers I was looking for. They had lost pets of their own as well, when they were little. They explained to me that people usually live much longer than most animals, and that it was natural for pets to go when they did.
There is a reason
Think about it: Animals age differently from you and me. As an example, in the first two years, dogs age ten-and-a-half human years per year - that means they're already 21 years old in human terms by the time they celebrate their second birthday! After that, they age about 4 dog years per human year. So, in another ten human years, they've grown an 40 dog years more. 21 years + 40 years = 61 years! That's a ripe old age for a dog, if you ask me.
Different animals age differently, but most age much faster than we do. That's good news, in a way - it just means that you, your brothers and sisters, as well as mum and dad, are going to be around much longer to enjoy the company of other pets through the years.
Sometimes pets don't get better
Sick pets sometimes do not recover fully, and although we do all we can to help them get better, there are times when they don't. Most kids are very responsible and take all the care they are supposed to, but sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just have to let go and say goodbye.
I know it's not easy. I remember my sister crying when our pet duck Drake died. I felt sad too, and mum and dad told us that it was OK to cry, and that they also felt a sense of loss. Drake was a happy duck all his life, but one day he caught an illness that he could not recover from, despite how much our vet tried to help him.
His brother Dan seemed sad, of course, and didn't eat for a few days after Drake passed away, but he came around after that and was his usual old, tail-wagging self. I remember thinking, "If Dan's OK, then it's alright for us to let go as well."
While I was always inquisitive about my pet's illness, sis never wanted to know the details - it made her more sad. If you'd like to know more, you should ask mum and dad about what happened, but it's alright if you don't want to.
It's no one's fault
Sometimes, you may blame yourself, your parents or even the vet for not being able to save your pet. Trust me, it's no one's fault. Sometimes, nature has a different plan, and we have to learn to accept it.
Remember, veterinarians are very intelligent people and become animal doctors because they love animals - there is no way they would let an animal die if they had a chance to save it.
I remember Drake to this day, as well as all the other pets who we were lucky to have as our friends through the years. In fact, we had our own ways of saying goodbye to a pet who had passed away.
When we were back in India, we used to plant a tree in our pet's favourite spot in the garden, and even write down our memories of fun times we had together. My sister loved drawing pictures of them, while my brother used to take a bunch of photos of our pet and make a collage.
My brother always liked to talk about our pets fondly, and used to talk to mum and dad when he was sad, or even when he used to remember funny things our pets had done sometimes - like the time Drake jumped into the tub when he was having a bath!
I found that I could handle my sadness best when I consoled others, especially my grandma. A few comforting words is all it takes to make someone feel better - and you end up feeling better yourself!
It's not unusual for you to feel sad for one or two months, but remember to share your feelings with mum and dad whenever you can. If you're still low after two months have passed, be sure to tell them - they'll know what to do.
One thing I know for sure - when my pets were alive, they were happy to have friends like me by their side. I'm sure yours were too.
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Copyright © 2004 Leonard Rego. All rights reserved.