Losing a pet sucks. There’s no way around it. But what sucks even more is losing a pet after you have a kid.
It was in 1999 when I found Bubba. I spotted him limping away from an unsuccessful foraging attempt in a dumpster, and he was the most emaciated dog I’d ever seen. I couldn’t stop myself; I pulled my car over, and he came right to me and got right in my car. Naturally, he ended up coming home with us.
He was a great dog. Sweet, loving, patient, and nearly silent (he barked when he was in the backyard and wanted to come in and that was it). He went on a million camping and hiking adventures with us, cuddled with me after a tragic pregnancy loss, and greeted my daughter with great aplomb when we finally brought a baby home.
I worried about introducing a child into our house with a dog, but Bubba took it all in stride. He hovered around Tori when she was sleeping as a tiny babe, provided an excellent assist when she began pulling up, let her use him as a pillow when she got older, and even suffered with dignity the occasional tutu around the neck. He continued to be the best dog in the world.
We noticed he was getting tired when my daughter was three. We took him to the vet and the news was grim: a large tumor was slowly killing him. We’d have to say goodbye. We took him home so his friends could come say goodbye (that’s how great a dog he was; sixteen people came over to say goodbye his last night), and we sat Tori down and told her the bad news.
We did it straight up. We told her he was sick, and that it was time for him to go to heaven (my atheist husband objected mildly, but we decided the heaven route was the right way to go), and that the doctor was going to help him die. We told her to spend some time saying goodbye, and that he wouldn’t be coming home from the vet (where we live we can’t bury him, sadly, so he was cremated).
Being honest was the right way to go; she took it in stride. She cried, a little, and cuddled with him a lot. She talks about him still, nearly three years later, and says she misses him a lot. Of course we ended up getting another dog, but she hasn’t forgotten her first dog. I doubt she ever will.