11 years ago, when it was just me and him, I could feel that urge to nurture calling, however me being so career focused translated the urge to breed in to buying a puppy! We decided on a Dalmatian, so the search began, we picked our pup, a little girl with one blue and one brown eye who we named Dasher.
Dasher was the love of my life, she was just like the Dalmatian pups in the movie and everywhere we took her we’d hear the same jokes, ‘Oh where are the other 100 puppies?’. Right after we got Dasher my husband was deployed to Timor for six months so it was just me and Dash and I had all the time in the world to train her. I remember coming home from work one night, walked in the front door and it looked like it had snowed in the living room as she had pulled a couch cushion to bits and there was foam everywhere. One day she ate the TV remote control and poohed out buttons for a week!
Once Master 7 was born poor Dasher became an outside dog. When he was old enough Dasher became his best friend. Every weekend at 730am (two at the time) he would come in my room and say “Mummy I play Dasher?” so off he’d go outside and play with her for hours. Each time we brought a baby home Dasher loved meeting them. Little Miss 4 also had a very special connection with her Dasher. Dasher would happily be dressed up as a fairy or ridden with out complaint. She even tolerated having her tail pulled or ears pinned back with a head band. Mr Chilled loved to sit at the sliding glass door and watch Dasher and was just starting to say “Dogggg”.
Dasher was never any trouble, never got sick in any way and was just always there out the back everyday or night. She was no guard dog, she would get silly when someone came over and wiggle her butt and smile at them. The only thing that was annoying about Dash was she would always shed black and white hairs, so if you wore black you always had at least one white hair on you and if you wore white you could be sure you would have two black hairs on you!
One morning I got up, made a cup of tea, looked out the window and saw old Dasher just laying on an old rug. The more I stared at her the more I realised how still she was, then it occurred to me, she was so still because she was lifeless. Sometime early in the morning Dasher had left us, she was still warm when we checked her, but she was gone. We never did take her to the vet to find out why, we just buried her at the top of the back yard while the kids were inside. When it came the end of the day it was time to tell them that Dasher had died. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, say those words. At first the kids laughed they thought I was joking, but when they saw me and their Dad cry, they cried, and cried and cried. We all just laid on the lounge room floor and cried together.
It took a while to get used to the idea, each night I would get the dog food out ready to feed her, then realise I didn’t need to any more. The back yard also seemed so still now, no movement out there anymore. The kids asked to make Dash a special plaque so we would always know where she is. I think with kids you just have to tell them the truth. It’s a true lesson they need to understand in life that things, animals and people die, and it’s ok to cry and be sad. We haven’t got a new dog because we just can’t imagine another dog being able to fill the gap Dasher left. The kids talk about Dasher all the time she is still a big part of the family and will always be remembered.
Pets are a significant and a constant part of kids childhood, and it really is surprising how much it hurts when they do die. I think the best method is honesty and showing your feelings. You are the best judge of what and when to tell the kids and this is how our experience went.