I did not grow up with pets, living in rented apartments really limited the option of having a dog (which I always wanted) and the fact that my parents were not of the walk the dog and pick up after it type (they saw dogs with yards or large spaces in their minds) meant no pets for me. I did not even have the odd goldfish. I was not alone, many of the kids I grew up did not have pets yet we all longed for them.
As my boys have grown they have had fish, most make it months and one Batman the Beta fish lived for 2 years at which point we all cried and bid him farewell with a burial at sea via our toilet.
They have begged, pleaded and cajoled but nope no dog still. There are not enough people in this house who are here full time to walk said dog and also I just do not want to take on yet another responsibility.
Our first pet was a guinea pig - Jessie - cute as can be and pretty smart. They are quite affectionate creatures and pretty sure we were trained by her as soon as she understood that crinkly bag equalled lettuce in bowl along with her feed. As they are South American creatures we knew to make it warm in winter for her what we did not know is that they overheat very quickly and it is fatal. The tears on that one lasted weeks for all 3 of us and even my husband shed a tear or two.
It took us several months but we decided to honor the love we had for Jessie by buying our next guinea pig. I went to the pet store, they had one baby guinea pig and he was afraid in his cage and frankly totally odd looking. He had this weird hair on his head that looked like a bit of a wig and the fur had these odd swirls. His fur was a caramel and white color and the guy at the pet store thought he would have a hard time selling him since he was so different - if you know anything about me personally you knew that was the selling point.
Took him home and my youngest son, who is bit obsessed with naming himself and all things Bob (no clue we just go with it), named him... Bob. He was a funny fellow also easily adapted to crinkly bags to be lettuce, knew how to find carrot hidden in leaves, went outside and loved dandelion leaves. About two weeks ago, after having him for a year and a half, we noticed that Bob was just not his usual non stop eating self. He still squeaked for lettuce but then seemed unable to eat it as he usually had. We took him to the vet and found out he had a very rare kind of bone cancer but with these guys and their super quick metabolism he was not given more than a week. We took him home, hugged the little guy, gave him pain killers and after two days we found him in his favorite spot in his cage when I woke up having died in his sleep. It was the best outcome for a shitty turn of events.
We mourned him and I get weepy writing this. It is hard to have pets for kids, and for me, to see this happen. They become a part of the family and you attribute human traits to them and genuinely love them. It is a time to explain to kids that death is so final, unfair and yet also a good time to remind them to love and enjoy every moment of every day. My oldest son was angry with cancer and understood how easily this deadly disease can rob pets and people of the future they could have. I was grateful to see my son's friends gently care for them when they were sad, especially my older one whose 10 year old male and female friends offered words of support and understanding allowing him to grieve as needed.
For me with a secular household I do not have the fairy tale of some sort of after world so heaven is defined as the place in our hearts where these pets and people who die live forever. We thank Bob for being with us and for making us smile with his silly look which we thought quite dashing. We thank Bob for being so gentle and for reminding us that each love we have adds to our lives and we should tell four and two legged creatures that they are loved often. We will miss Bob tremendously but we want to remember him for his silly fights with the lettuce to find the carrot pieces not for being in pain before he peacefully went to sleep forever.
So RIP our beloved Bob our time together meant a lot and you will be in the heaven of our hearts for always.