Our old dog died more than two months ago, but last week she came back to bite us on the derriere.
When we had to have her put to sleep, we decided not to mention it to our learning disabled son – we didn’t want to upset him and he hadn’t really shown any interest in her for some time.
We don’t really know if he understands what death and dying is. He has attended funerals in the past, most recently my mum’s and my wife’s father’s, but I don’t think there was any real comprehension that we were saying goodbye to these people forever.
Anyway, we thought we’d got away with having to explain about the dog – two months without a mention – but then it snowed...
Rory’s favourite thing in the world (after standing on the edge of a pebbly beach throwing stones into the water) is playing in the snow.
He may be 17 and nearly 6ft but he loves the snow and will happily spend hours out in the icy cold. However, he has previously had a preferred playmate who unquestioningly enjoyed the same wintry games . . . yes, Janet, our old dog.
So when Rory looked out through the window and saw an (admittedly thin) layer of snow covering the back garden, his gaze immediately turned to where the dog’s basket hasn’t been for two months.
I have to admit that I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as he wandered around the house, anxious and upset, calling the dog’s name – even trying to entice her with the promise of a biscuit.
How to explain?
Of course, the snow only lasted a few hours, but there was suddenly, to Rory, a big dog-shaped hole in the household.
I wanted to tell him the truth and to try to introduce the concept of what death is, but mum is not so sure, she doesn’t think he’s ready. So, for the past week, we’ve come up with a more and more elaborate story about how she’s had to go to ‘doggy hospital’ and can’t come home because only the doctors and nurses can look after her. To back up the deception I even used my (limited) Photoshop skills to create a picture of Janet looking out of an animal hospital window.
The lack of any further snow has helped our cause and his demands for us to produce the dog are subsiding little by little as the days go by – but the weather forecast has taken on a whole new importance for us.
-- Am I alone in noticing a big splurge of money suddenly being spent on public projects? The Government appears to be announcing new (expensive) initiatives every day and even local councillors seem to be ‘splashing the cash’ from their locality budgets. Anyone would think there was an election coming up!