Before I had kids, my cats were my babies. Literally. And once my children were born, my cats were still my (fur)babies- I just usually picked up the crying human baby first.
I grew up with a variety of pets, and they regarded as equal members of our family (especially the cat that insisted on drinking fresh water from the bathroom sink stream every day, & was accordingly accommodated).
When our pet’s life would come to a close, my sister and I would hold our precious pet in the vet’s office as the medication was administered, watching his or her life flow ebb beneath our loving, comforting hands.
And it hurt like hell. But despite our pain, we knew being there was the right way to honor a pet who had been a part of our family.
A mother shared a Facebook post about she & her son grieving the loss of their dog- but it’s also a powerful reminder about the gift of unconditional love.
Maria explains in her Facebook post that a routine vet appointment for family dog Buffy evolved into something far more serious than anticipated.
Although Buffy was there for a teeth cleaning, the lab work indicated that she was showing signs of advanced, irreversible kidney failure.
As a result, the family was faced with an unbelievably painful decision:
as a family we decided that the kindest and most loving thing to do would be to let her go before she lost her will to live and stopped eating and drinking.
If you’ve ever had to put a pet to sleep, then you know that even if it’s the humane, compassionate way to end your pet’s suffering, it’s still heartbreaking.
Maria knew that her son, Robbie, needed to be involved in the what would now be Buffy’s final hours. So she immediately left to pick up Robbie from school in order to bring him back to the vet’s office.
Robbie asked if he could be the one to hold Buffy as she entered heaven, to which Maria agreed. She also told Robbie how proud she was of him for:
understanding the importance of caring for old animals and helping to make sure they never ever suffer.
Holding a pet as they die is utterly painful. I’ve been there a few times, and although I was thankful to comfort my pet as he or she passed, it’s utterly heartbreaking. And that’s coming from an adult.
But Robbie was bravely prepared to physically comfort Buffy in her last moments.
How was this young boy able to stay so strong? Robbie’s reasoning touches the heart of every parent:
“I know how it feels not to be loved or cared for and I don’t want any animal of mine to ever feel that way.
It’s only sad for us when they go to heaven. It’s a happy day for them.
Thank you for being proud of me. Are you ok, Mom?”
Talk about deep truth and compassion from such a young one, right??
What is so significant about Robbie’s response is that Robbie was adopted from the foster care system after years of severe abuse and neglect.
Unfortunately, Robbie knows all-too-well what a lack of love can feel like. Although he is now enveloped in love in his “forever” family, he never wants anyone -human or animal- to EVER feel unloved or neglected.
It obviously hurt Robbie terribly to lose Buffy; tears fill my eyes as I look at his tear-stained face.
But he was right there in that moment, giving love to Buffy. Because he wanted her to feel safe & loved, and I have no doubt that she felt both from such a sweet, huge-hearted boy.
Maria noted that the family makes a point to adopt senior dogs, specifically done so because of Robbie’s own experience in the foster care system.
Robbie has always urged his mother & father to adopt senior dogs because, as most pet shelters can concur, they are the pets that are most overlooked for adoption:
He is sadly aware the longer a child remains in foster care the less likely they are to be adopted.
Young Robbie knows first-hand what it’s like to remain in the foster care system, waiting to be adopted, but watching families choose babies & younger children:
He told me once “if all you guys had wanted was a baby, you would have never gotten me.”
The neglect that Robbie experienced at such a young age could have rendered him bitter and wary of love, which would have been justified.
But instead, Robbie’s heart is filled with love and compassion- especially for those that need that nurturing the most.
As he’s reminded his parents often:
it doesn’t matter how long you have something for how much you love it.
I asked him what he meant and he said “well you’ve only known me for two years but you love me like it’s been forever.”
While Robbie’s heart surely hurt the day that Buffy passed away, he not only gave the gift of love to her, but to his mother… and anyone else reading of his story as well.
Sometimes it’s the hardest moments that teach us what matters most- and in this case, the lesson came straight from the mouths of babes.