I Killed the Dog

I killed the dog. Actually, I didn’t. Our dog is still alive. But Watchful still thinks that I did. Here’s what actually happened.

Our sixteen-year-old son Silent One’s hamster died of natural causes today. The little critter simply curled up in his tiny hut and never woke up. Hamsters don’t live forever and since we rescued the hamster from the animal shelter, he had already lived a long time.

This hamster meant a lot to Silent One. The hamster was his responsibility, his first pet. The hamster was “adopted” from a shelter and Silent One was adopted, too. The hamster slept right by his bed, the first thing Silent One saw when he awoke and the last thing he saw when he went to sleep (while except for maybe his iPhone – but I digress).

So Silent One was understandably very sad.

Eight-year-old Watchful shares a room with Silent One. Where Silent One sought me out for hugs and solace, Watchful accused me of assassinating the hamster. And since I am a pet killer, it just makes sense that I would kill our family dog, too. Then, he saw the knife on the kitchen counter since I was making lunch. This is undeniable proof that I have killed the dog, too. So, Watchful expressed his anger at my murderous tendencies for the next hour.

I called the dog over to Watchful to show him that she was very much alive, thinking this would put an end to the accusation of me being a dog killer. I realize now how foolish and faulty my logic was.

Trauma twists reality. If you have been beaten and threatened by your bio mom, leaving you to fear for your life on a daily basis for years, then surely your foster mom, who is a mom, must also be a cold hearted abuser. The presence of the living dog for this one moment cannot overcome the years of abuse and lack of safety.

So, while I do not like to be thought of as a dog killer, since I am not an animal murderer, I get where Watchful’s coming from.

But try explaining that to a heart-broken Silent One.

To make things worse, our 10-year-old foster daughter Joyful was making helpful suggestions like we should just go to the store and get a new pet, because everyone knows pets are replaceable. And probably she should get to choose which animal, because, you know, she wants to choose. At least, she thought it was a sad situation.

So I pulled aside both Joyful and Watchful. I explained the short life span of hamsters and the circle of life. And then talked about ways to be sensitive to Silent One’s loss. For example, Joyful can express her sadness, but she will not suggest Silent One get a new pet for at least one week. For Watchful, there’s no talking about the hamster’s death at all to Silent One for one week – but he can talk about it with other adults.

And so goes life in our bio-adoptive-foster family home.

One thought on “I Killed the Dog

  1. Quick: Do you still have the hamster??? So often a hamster’s death is mistaken for hibernation. When the weather turns cold, or a room cools, daylight is not as long a hamster will often hibernate. They can be brought in and out of hibernation with the change of a room temperature. It is probably too late, but everyone remember this for the future. If a hamster looks dead, even chilled, try warming it up first. If it does not respond after a few hours, then yes it is probably dead. Google how to tell if your hamster is hibernating or dead. It will give you details.

    So sorry for your loss. Please don’t let your children know it might have been alive. (Usually if they are curled up, they are hibernating – if they are stretched out somewhere on their side then they are probably dead.)


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