all dogs go to heaven

September 27, 2006

My neighbors lost their puppy this weekend—he swallowed something that lodged itself firmly in his intestines and a trip to the vet for emergency surgery was unsuccessful in saving him. That afternoon the 2 girls—3 and 7—had come to the market with me while Six [named for the six-shaped spot around his eye] was at the vet. Two events in particular made me realize how much they were grieving. First, a visit to the balloon man led to a prompt request for a puppy from the 7-year-old. When he asked what color she wanted, the myriad of choices displayed were not even glanced at; she knew it had to be white. And of course, white was the color of the puppy. Shortly thereafter, the younger of the two had abandoned her one-eyed frog [he did begin his life with 2 eyes but had sadly already popped one of them]. She then had persistently pleaded until sister agreed to loan out the puppy. She promptly resumed the same game that had led to the casualty of froggy’s eye—tossing the balloon into the air and letting it fall onto the concrete floor. Predictably, the balloon lost its life soon thereafter. What surprised me at this point was that, rather than an angry reaction from big sister, there was first a violent bursting-into-tears by the younger. I cannot help but assume that somewhere in her 3-year-old heart, a sensitivity to the whole family’s concern over their puppy caused her to react as if that popping of the puppy balloon was a bit too close to possible reality at the time.
And then, unfortunately, that “possible” became reality . . .
This evening I got a phone call from their mother thanking me for the card I had made for the girls. She said I should go into the Pet-Sympathies card business, as the poem I wrote about Six made the older of the 2 girls cry. Not sure if I should take this as a compliment or not, she then assured me that they were good tears, and that she had loved the poem. I can’t remember exactly what it was that I wrote now, but I am glad it was appreciated, as I did actually agonize over it a fair bit, in an effort to speak on an understandable level for the girls without talking down at all, or making the grieving process worse. It is a greater honor to speak to the heart of this little one than it would have been to move a room-full of grown-ups to tears . . .

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