“Will we ever see Griffin again?” a tiny voice asks me from the backseat.
This isn’t the first time she’s asked over the last few months since our dog went to heaven, and yet I still have to choke back tears every time. And I answer the same as always, “Yes, I think we will. Many, many years from now, I think we’ll see him again in heaven.” Usually, that’s enough for her, but this morning it wasn’t.
This morning she wanted to know what he was doing up there, who he was playing with, and whether his boo-boos had healed so he could have more fun playing. And wow, kids with their honest questions can be brutal! So today, I silently cried a little more than usual and assured her that I believed he was all healed and having fun.
My husband and I adopted our dog Griffin thirteen years ago from a shelter. I had never owned a dog and did not think I was cut out for pet ownership, but that little dog had my heart.
When we adopted him, I never thought about the math of how old my future children would be when he reached his elder years. But a little over three years after adopting him, our first daughter entered our world. She loved Griffin, and he was very gentle with her after a brief sock-stealing issue right off her tiny newborn feet.
Four years after her arrival, we added her sister to our family. And though our dog was even older and more docile by the time my younger daughter was born, she was never really a fan of his.
Which makes her probing questions about his time in heaven even more interesting.
This past summer, Griffin’s illnesses overtook his quality of life, and we decided to help him pass peacefully. We had a beautiful goodbye in a grassy area near the animal hospital, full of treats, hugs, and tears. And we explained everything happening, so our daughters could be well prepared.
They weren’t in the room for the final goodbye, but we thought we had done as decent a job preparing them as one could in this awful circumstance. As I said, we thought we did.
A 6-year-old doesn’t grasp why you wouldn’t come home with your dog, even with all our lovely talks of rainbow bridges and heaven. And then, from the little girl who never wanted our dog too close to her (except on her terms, when she felt like it), came what I could only describe as a guttural scream of “I WANT GRIFFIN!” and tears, and more tears.
This reaction came as a complete shock to us, but I guess for a child that has never really known grief in her short six years, this was a very real, very raw moment for her. Eventually, we calmed her down with a lot of quiet talking and tight hugs. And as six-year-olds are prone to do, she quickly asked what was for dinner because she was hungry, and that seemed like it.
However, months later, she’ll still come down from her bedroom late at night, climb into her dad’s lap and tell him how much she misses Griffin. And on our morning rides to ballet, she’ll ask about his adventures in heaven. I’m amazed every time by her thoughts, her feelings, and her young version of grief and mourning.