Experiencing Loss

We knew the day was coming, but we didn’t know it would be Saturday. Our faithful dog, Whidbey, died yesterday and was buried by our old apple trees. It was a sad day, but we are thankful that we had so many years with him.


One day, more than eleven years ago, the children were outside playing and saw a chocolate lab run into the yard. He was friendly, so we took him into our backyard to keep him safe until his owner was found. Within minutes a man drove down the block looking back and forth out his windows, trying to locate the dog. Being friendly, I told him my kids were going to be sad to part with his dog, and he replied that he had another lab who needed a home because the two dogs were not getting along; were we interested? Of course, the children needed no convincing, but Russ and I were not considering adding a dog to our family of seven.

We decided to bring the dog home for the afternoon to let the children play with him and see what we thought. Russ went down the block and returned with a skinny and tall black lab who cowered when anybody moved quickly. He had sores on his back where the dominant dog had attacked him and he only ate if we offered him food from our hands. His name was Trouble, which panged me; no dog should be named Trouble. As the afternoon progressed, the kids grew more hopeful that we would keep the dog. By evening we were all growing attached, but there was one rule, he had to be an outside dog because he was huge and besides, I just didn’t want a dog in the house.

That night we made a bed for him in our carport. We tucked the kids in and went to bed only to be awakened at 10:30 by the sound of the dog howling outside. Russ got up and tried to settle him, but as soon as he came back to bed, the dog began howling again. We knew our neighbors were not going to be happy, so Russ put the dog on the leash and walked him back down the block to his owner. The owner’s house was quiet and dark, with only the faint flicker of a television showing through the window, so Russ brought the dog back home.

We put his blanket just inside the door and he curled up happily. Back to bed we went with plans to return Trouble in the morning. Just as we were drifting off to sleep, we heard the click, click, click of his nails on the wood floor as he made his way to our room where he curled up on the floor next to the bed and fell asleep. That was the end of any doubts we had about keeping him and the end of his days as an “outside dog”. We resigned ourselves to having a dog the size of a calf in the house. We also named him Whidbey, after Whidbey Island, our favorite place.

The children were sad to lose him yesterday and there were many tears, but they also found productive comfort in digging a grave and helping bury him. It was hard for me to use words like grave, dead, and bury, but it was also important. As much I want to shield my children from pain, death is a part of life. For my Ethiopian children it has been a very present part of their lives and the lives of their friends in the orphanages. They have seen far more suffering and death than most of us ever will. Dimples said, “Now I know three people who died, my Ethiopia Mom and Dad, and Whidbey.” Honeybee said, “My Ethiopia Mommy and Daddy no die,” but we have talked about it and she knows they have. She has no memory of them since they died when she was a young baby, but fortunately we do have a lovely photo of her in her mother’s arms.


Ladybug celebrated Whidbey’s life by making cookies that spelled his name; you can see the “W” below. Other cookies were shaped like dog biscuits, dog bowls, and hearts.

Grief is a healthy and good process….but I’ll be glad when we all feel a bit better.

~Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Bingaling
    October 19, 2008

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Whidbey. Pets truly become a part of the family…and it sounds like Whidbey had a wonderful life with all of you.
    Chanda

    Reply
  2. Leslie
    October 20, 2008

    I’m so sorry. Praying for you all to feel God’s comfort and presence with you.

    Reply
  3. nosmallfeat
    October 20, 2008

    I am SO sorry to read of your family’s loss. I am glad you wrote so much of how Whidbey became part of your family.

    Reply
  4. Michelle Riggs
    October 20, 2008

    I am so sorry that you and your children are hurting.

    You did a great job helping them grieve and cope.

    I wish so much that I could sheild my children, who have already had much to grieve over, from any future grief, but I know they are better able to handle sad things if I walk them through them, instead of trying to shield them from pain.

    Reply
  5. Cat and Mark
    October 20, 2008

    I’m so sorry about your puppy! =(

    But I think you really capitalized on the opportunity to honor your pet and provide your children a valuable life experience.

    Reply
  6. Adrielle
    October 20, 2008

    This news brings tears to my eyes as well,dear old Whidbey! Funny I was just thinking about him on saturday too, remembering the long walk we all took along the train tracks at the property and how Whidbey’s feet got so sore that Uncle Shannon gave him his socks to put on his paws!
    Love you

    Reply
  7. I live IN Jesus
    October 20, 2008

    I am so sorry for your loss… I pray that God will heal your hurting hearts! 🙂 God bless!
    Sarah T

    Reply
  8. darci
    October 20, 2008

    oh so sad and so sorry to hear about your whidby. praying all of you will find comfort. darci

    Reply
  9. Andrea
    October 20, 2008

    I am so sorry for your loss, it’s so tough when you lose a family pet!

    Reply
  10. Rachel
    October 21, 2008

    I can’t believe it…but I am crying right now! I really loved Whidbey…So sorry for your loss…

    Rachel

    Reply
  11. Angela
    October 21, 2008

    i’m so so sorry… i cried my way through this post… we also have a lab..and she is 10 1/2… and I dread the day I have to write this post. Thank you for being an example for me to follow in helping my kids (and me!) grieve when the day does come.
    I will be praying for your family!

    Reply
  12. Maria and Family
    October 23, 2008

    I am so sorry. Pets truly are the a part of the family..hugs.
    Maria

    Reply

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