When Pets Leave Us

We are no stranger to pets passing away. And it’s not because they are neglected, but more because of our choice of pet. Living in Singapore is proving to be difficult for us to live with a dog. It comes with additional responsibilities that we didn’t have to worry about back in the Philippines. We don’t have a backyard to keep a dog in and living in shared apartment buildings means you are limited in the size and number of dogs you can own. Add the fact that we can’t leave a dog behind for extended periods of time when we decide to go on vacation and you have yourself a member of the family being housed in their own “pet hotel”. So we stuck with a hamster.

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Hamsters are small and easily managed. They don’t take up a lot of space and when we go on a vacation, we can just carry them over to our friend’s house for sitting. Sure, you have overheads like food, bedding, treats, and the occasional trip to the vet, but that is no different than having a dog. In the years that we have been here, we have had six hamsters in the family. All of them have become small and fluffy companions to all of us in the home. Alas, our last hamster passed away in May. During the last few days of his life, we were already expecting him to leave us due to his age. As such, Matthew had prepared a casket for him and we were sure that we wouldn’t be caught by surprise like the others. And when he passed, we buried him properly and sent him off with a prayer.

What I didn’t know, or maybe I didn’t want to believe during those times was how the death of a pet affected children. My wife and I are already grown up, we feel sad when a pet passes. But we cope and we move on. I thought that was just, you know, normal. As my wife pointed out to me though, it had a profound effect on Matthew.

I have to admit, I had not been very good at helping my son deal with the loss of our pets. Because of the reason I mentioned above, I was coping. And I thought that he would cope with it as well. Apparently, at age 7, he does not cope so well. He went through some difficult times more than once and I thought I was there for him. But it was not enough and it was already too far back to rectify. So when our last hamster passed away, I made sure that I was more sensitive to his needs. It may not be enough to heal him from his past experiences, but I’m hoping that he does manage to cope better as long as I become more aware of their needs.

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