“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 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.