The Circle Of Life

“When you’re deaded, and you go to heaven, can you see?”
“Yeah, buddy. I think so.”
“If you can see, then you’re alive, right? So you can be alive in heaven?”
“Well, no… not really? I… Kendall, I don’t know. You can see, and it will feel like you’re alive, maybe? But you can only be alive in heaven. You can’t come back to earth.”
“Then heaven is in outer space?”


“So how did the baby get out of your belly?”


When you put your dog to sleep the day after you have a baby, there are a lot of circle-of-life questions for your 5-year-old to work through.

Lowell was less than 24 hours old. I was sitting in the hospital room, and Scott stepped out to run some errands. My mom called him from our house where she was watching Kendall and Leyna. Bruno, our 10-year-old diabetic English mastiff, was having a seizure in our backyard. She couldn’t get him up.

This wasn’t the first time this happened. Bruno had been having seizures for the last few months. We’d often find him unable to move, in a puddle of his own urine, or laying in his own feces. The first time it happened, I knew the end was near. I started to brace for it. I took him out to a field of bluebonnets shortly after and took his pictures.


I blogged it.

I cried. A lot.

And then I began talking to Scott about what the “right” course of action should be. I pushed to put Bruno to sleep a couple months ago. I absolutely did NOT want to see his life end, but even more than that, I didn’t want to see him suffer. I also didn’t want him to get lost in the mix of us having a new baby. I didn’t want to bring home a newborn, and then be forced to put him to sleep when his pain was so great we couldn’t ignore it anymore.

I didn’t want the kids to have to cope with the loss of a family pet at the same time they were adjusting to a new sibling. And yet, that’s exactly what happened.

Scott kept agreeing to put a date on the calendar for that sad visit to the vet’s office, but the dates would come and go, and he just couldn’t go through with it. Massively pregnant and hormonal, it wasn’t something I could do without him. So it kept getting pushed back and pushed back.

I found myself angry and annoyed with Scott every time Bruno had another seizure, every time we’d have to take him outside and hose him down in the blazing Texas summer sun to get the urine and feces off of him. What if something happened while Scott was traveling for work? I’d be stuck there, the size of a house, with Kendall and Leyna watching, and I’d have to figure this out on my own. I was mad Scott wasn’t letting us take control of the situation. I needed some kind of control.

But I couldn’t stay mad for long. I understood. We didn’t WANT to end our dog’s life. How do you look at a living piece of your family and make that decision for them? Scott needed more “signs.” I was convinced we’d seen plenty of them.

It broke my heart to see Bruno spend his days and nights sleeping on our couch, only moving to hobble outside a few times a day. He’d get lost in our yard because he was so blind and disoriented. I’d have to fetch him from behind the play fort during 2am potty breaks. It broke Scott’s heart more to have to be the ones to put his life to an end. So we were at a stand still for months.

The day after Lowell was born, Scott called me at the hospital as he drove back to our house.

“Your mom said Bruno is in the yard, he had a seizure, and she can’t move him. I’m going to pick him up. I’m taking him in,” he quietly and matter-of-factly informed me.

“Okay,” was all I could say.

I wish I could say that’s because I was overcome with sadness, but really, to be entirely honest, it was mostly anger. This was precisely what I didn’t want to happen. I didn’t get to say goodbye. This moment was lost in the mix of life. There was too much going on. Why couldn’t we have planned this better?

But if this was the sign Scott was looking for, I knew he needed to go with it. All my anger dissipated when he came back to the hospital late that night. He put our dog down all by himself, then he came back to me and a newborn and a night of broken sleep. I knew in my heart all his actions (and lack thereof) were fueled by love and a desire strike a balance he didn’t know the formula for. I didn’t know it, either.

I still haven’t cried about it since it happened. Scott remarked one day, “Wow. This doesn’t seem to be affecting you much.” It wasn’t a passive-aggressive statement on his part, just an honest observation. Still, knowing the truth behind that made me feel guilty.

“Well, you know, it’s a lot to process. And to be honest? I don’t have the TIME or the ENERGY to even think about it right now,” I snapped back. He apologized. Of course, he knew I’m dealing with a lot these days.

A conversation with my mom brought me some comfort, though.

“I think you already have processed it,” she said. “When you blogged about  it, when you took his pictures. I think you’ve worked through those emotions.”

And I think she’s right. There may still be a wave of sadness that comes over me, but I know I dealt with what Scott’s just now dealing with a long time ago.

I did tear up the first night we were home. I caught Kendall in our closet, behind the door, crying. I embraced him and reassured him that I loved him so, so much. That he would always be so special to me. That even though we had another baby boy in the family didn’t mean he wouldn’t always be just as important to me as he was the day he was born. He looked up at me, a little confused, then burst into tears again.

“I’m so sad that Bruno is deaded, mom.”


It wasn’t about Lowell at all… or maybe it was? And maybe the two got mixed up? Maybe the two emotions got swirled around in his heart and bubbled up to the top. Maybe the easiest label for him to give them was sadness.

It’s been a long and short 2 and a half weeks. We’ve fielded many questions from Kendall that we have no idea how to answer, covering everything from heaven and cremation to vaginas and clarifying which hole the baby comes out of.

Bruno is back home with us now. We picked up his ashes just the other day. Scott and Kendall refer to them as Bruno-In-A-Box with laughter. So that’s a good thing, right? We’ve moved on to making jokes.



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  1. Oh Jill, this has me in tears. I read your post about Bruno awhile ago and it had me the same then too. I’m so sad to hear how everything happened but it’s certainly for the best.

    We have our little puppy from my childhood, aka “Sammy-in-a-Box” and we still talk about Sam often…especially as my own little Katie Bug grows and we bring home a new puppy in a few weeks! They are never gone…they live in our hearts forever, and ever, and ever! <3

  2. Ohmyheart. I totally understand. It’s so hard to lose a pet. A family member. And we make jokes about our dogs-in-a-box too. Hehe.

    And I kind of get what you’re talking about with the pre-processing stuff – when my brother was diagnosed with cancer two months ago, I was a wreck. I was a wreck when he died a month later too, but not as much then. Partially because we were at peace with the fact that his suffering was short and that he’s in a much better place now. But I think also partially because I had been processing it already over the month. So, I can keep it together right now, and I kind of feel bad about that – shouldn’t I be crying more? It’s a constant feeling of emptiness and homesickness for him, but I don’t need to grieve “violently” anymore. I can function, I’m just very sad. And I guess that’s why. Pre-processing.

    Anyway, I am so sorry for your loss. It just always sucks.

  3. I have 9 year old twins boy girl. And a 15 year old son. I have an 8 year old cockapoo, a 4 year old boxer and a two year old boxer. I hate to be silly but it’s like having 6 kids. They all have special needs and no day goes by with out each of them demanding their own special moments. I love all that you share and appreciate how brave you are to do it. You rock. Really thanks

  4. Oh, I am so crying right now. My heart goes out to you guys. You’ve been through so much in the past couple of weeks. Much love to you, Jill. <3

  5. Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m sitting here crying over your post (this post + my first post-baby period + losing our dog a week ago= ugly, ugly crying). We just gave our golden retriever away last weekend after having him for 7 years. We just couldn’t give him the attention he needed anymore. I can’t imagine what a difficult decision it was you had to make.

  6. I’m 2 weeks from the due date of my first bub, and we have an English Mastiff at home that I’ve been worrying about how she will cope with the arrival of the baby. Your original post about Bruno a few months back comforted me in a wonderful way that yes, life would change for Nancy, but it didn’t have to be for the worse. Your post was beautiful and the pics of Kendal hugging Bruno among the flowers stirred my heart. I’ve often wondered since then, how Bruno was going.

    I’m now two weeks away from the due date of my first baby and your post this morning has me in gut wrenching sobs. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m sorry that Bruno’s health caused your family to have to make a hard decision at such a delicate time. xx

  7. Jill, I’m not a mom but I’ve enjoyed your blog since your days on theknot (we wore the same dress, natch) and laugh along with you at the fun antics of motherhood. But dogs… dogs is where my heart is and I too just had to put down my “little” buddy. I blogged about it here: But you’re right… you can’t possibly prepare for it. And there’s so much to process. Bruno was so handsome and looks like such a love. The circle of life… so painful and so beautiful at the same time.

  8. im so crying for your words… im so sorry for your lost. I have nightmares about lossing my dogs and cat… when time comes is going to be so hard to take the decision.

  9. This past year, the very young and insanely brilliant father of two kids in our family’s preschool, passed away. In asking around about resources to help us answer questions about death, a particular book came up over and over and over… perhaps you’ve already heard about it? It’s called Lifetimes:

    (I recognize that you didn’t ask for advice at all, and that this is totally unsolicited. Sorry to presume!)

    My heart goes out to you–

  10. Oh Jill, I’m so sorry. This hits me hard because my lab is 10 yrs old, diabetic and blind. He does fine now but I’m sure one day they’re fine, and one day they’re on that road downhill. I’m so glad you got those pictures of him. Sorry for your loss of a great pet.

  11. My husband found our dog in the back yard one night while I was really sick. He had to take me to the ER that night and didn’t tell me about her until the next day. That was almost three years ago. She had been having problems for about a year. I still feel guilty that I wasn’t able to be there for her, like I could have prevented it, though I know there’s nothing I could have done. I also have guilt about getting frustrated with her when she would lose control of her bowels in the kitchen in the months before she died. It wasn’t her fault, but it was so overwhelming. So many emotions to deal with, and I don’t think you ever get away without guilt. I take comfort knowing that she isn’t suffering anymore and is in a better place. But I don’t think I’ll ever be totally at peace with it. Sorry you have to deal with this now when you’re dealing with everything else.

  12. First off I am sorry. There are no words to describe this. However, I to some extent understand. My brother died in a tragic accident less than 24 hours after my 1 year old was born. Hugs is all I can say.

  13. Kelli Robertson on

    So sorry for your loss. I’m crying. I can’t imagine having to do this when you’ve just had your baby. We had a dog growing up that had seizures, she eventually had one that left her unable to walk. Very sad.

  14. Sarah Elmore Burns on

    Our 10-year-old lab is nearing the end of her life, this is such a hard decision that we are putting it off. I cried reading this & I don’t cry! So sorry for your loss, Bruno was beautiful.

  15. I’m so sorry to hear about Bruno. We had to put our cat down a couple months after our son was born. It as so hard, but I knew that he wasn’t suffering anymore. Hugs.

  16. We just put our dog Lily to sleep in late February, a month before Juliet was born. It was so hard to process the sadness of losing her and the excitement of meeting the baby at the same time. I’d be happy baby was coming, and then break down crying remembering that she’ll never meet Lily. Ben (my 4yr old) was too young to cry about her, but he did ask about her all the time, and everytime he’d hear a noise, he’d tell me Lily was doing something. I’d have to remind him that she was gone. It was so, so hard. I feel for you, and I’m so sorry.

  17. Ruth Franks Snedecor on

    Our mastiff Gunner died the night we came back from a week long vacation without him. He checked on our sleeping baby boy, made sure all was well in his house, and fell asleep forever at my feet. We took his ashes and planted them along with a bunch of flowers in a giant pot in our yard that will move with us where-ever we go. It is the Gunny pot and it blooms in the middle of Arizona summer and I think of him. So sorry for your loss, your mom is totally right, you processed this a while ago.

  18. It is all so much. I am still processing the death of pets from years past. Life (beginning and ending) is overwhelming.

  19. Emily B Mitchell on

    I haven’t had a chance to read the whole blog yet, but about 11 months after we had our son, we found out he was allergic to cats. Ironically my cat had to be put to sleep the day before the allergy test. It broke my hear to hear that I could NEVER have another cat again.

  20. We just put our 13 yr old black lab down this week. It was so hard because his spirit was the same as always, his body just couldn’t keep up. My husband came home from lunch to find his back legs sprawled out and he couldn’t get back up and was crying. Our dog never cries. Since my husband is in a cast, his brother took our dog to the vet On the way there he bought our dog a cheeseburger. The worst part is that I didn’t get to say goodbye. I left work early and bawled when I got home. I can still feel him in our house. Its so sad to lose our first children.

  21. Almost three years ago, when I had just fallen head over heels in love with my ex boyfriend, my childhood dog Benny was at the end of his life and we knew the end was near. I know it’s not the same, but I understand the mix of emotions. This dog had been a part of my family for 11 years and I loved him so much, and at the same time, I was in one of the happiest times of my life falling in love with that man. The day my dad had to put Benny to sleep, I sobbed in my office because I wasn’t there. But I’d already said goodbye to him several times, hoping he’d just go in his sleep, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Honestly, it was nice to have my new boyfriend around as a distraction.
    And also? We have Benny in a box. My dad found a pirate chest at Hobby Lobby for his ashes and it sits on the mantle of their fireplace, and mom says now Benny can live out his dream of being a Pirate dog. So we’re a little bit odd.

  22. Losing an animal feels so much harder to me than losing a person I’m close to. I’m not sure if it’s the fact they can never tell you it’s okay and you have to make the decision for them or if it’s because they’re really our closest friends all along. I’m so sorry for your loss and hope you find comfort in knowing that he’s not suffering anymore.
    I went through a very similar situation before having my little one. My best friend and first furbaby passed away right before I was admitted to the hospital with complications with my pregnancy. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that the two were related.
    Hopefully Kendall will find some answers he’s searching for as well.
    My heart goes out to all of you.

  23. We lost Madison, our maltese who I’d had since moving to 1200 miles away to grad school, 3 months after our first son was born. She was only 8 years old and only sick for 2 weeks. Despite having my happy baby boy, I was a wreck. It’s hard to lose someone in your household- whether or not that someone can actually speak. Madison had been my family when I was starting out on my own in a new place. I had always envisioned her as part of my family- playing with my children. I still miss her and whenever I’m sad, my now 3-year-old son will ask, “Mommy, are you crying because you miss Madison?”
    Bruno was clearly very much loved by your entire family. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  24. So sad. I was doing okay until you mentioned finding Kendall crying…that would’ve broken me to pieces on a good day, let alone 24 hours after giving birth! So many hugs…Bruno was so loved and so lucky to have you guys as his humans!

  25. So sorry for the loss in your family, Jill. It’s never easy to lose a pet. I dread the day when our dog, Rinnie, goes. She was our first baby. She is Lilly’s playmate. It will be heartbreaking enough on it’s own. I can’t imagine dealing with that immediately after having a baby. It does look like you captured a few beautiful memories at the end.

  26. This story (along with many others of yours) made me sob, and when I say dob, I mean full fledge crocodile tears and and not being able to breath!! Love hearing life lessons learned from your sweet babies!!

  27. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss 🙁 It’s hard, especially when you’re kind of guiding the entire family when it comes to mourning. Sending good thoughts to all of you 🙂

  28. I do think you processed it earlier, as your mom said. She’s wise, and it was wise of you to do that. My heart breaks for your loss and I’m so glad you took those wonderful pictures. Hugs.

  29. Aubri Shauger-Haley on

    As always, you never cease to amaze. Your heart will heal, and your children will learn that you are one awesome mom! Thank you for letting us in to some of the toughest times.

  30. We put down my 15-year-old Dalmatian, Sparky, just 3 months before Ella was born. I soooo wanted him to meet her, but he was clearly suffering. I’m sorry you weren’t able to have your space to mourn Bruno, but people are ready when they are ready, and Scott clearly wasn’t ready.

    This is from the book, Bones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne Clothier:

    “There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings or walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.”

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