How to Talk to your Child about Dealing with Pet Death
Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Pets of all kinds bring their owners joy. Some people are traditional pet people meaning they have a cat or a dog, maybe even fish or a small bird. Others may enjoy the company of more specialty pets like reptiles. Whatever pet you prefer the inevitable will happen and they will pass away. Being adults we have already become accustomed to death. We have seen an elderly relative pass on or have seen enough television shows and movies to know how it works. The younger generations do not share this same understanding and need to experience death when it shows it’s sad face.
Unfortunately talking about someone, or something dying, isn’t enough for a child to fully comprehend the hurt of losing that loved one. They will ultimately have to feel the hurt, sadness, grief and pain when the time comes to grieve who died.
We live on our own little farm. It is nothing extravagant by any means, it is only one acre, but we have quite a few animals and plenty of room to grow a bunch of things. My wife and I wanted to raise our children away from the hustle and bustle of the city so this was a perfect fit. We started with the common pets; we had a dog, a cat and a bird. It didn’t take us long to start adding outdoor animals to our lives.
Animals on Farms
I came home one day to a weird sound of chirping. After further investigation I realized my wife had purchased ten little chicks from the local feed store. This was just a few months after we moved in so we really didn’t wait too long to start using the land that we lived on.
As an anniversary present I bought a horse that my wife had fallen in love with. A few more years later both of the kids each have a horse and we still have a rescue mule that was supposed to only be with us a few months; I have lost track how long we have had her.
Our more recent addition was some small dwarf goats, a Nigerian dwarf and a pigmy plus a buck to do the “servicing”. My wife has been a licensed esthetician for many years and makes most of her own soaps, makeup and lotions. She does this so well that she actually teaches other people how to do it at a few of our local colleges. What is great about the stuff she creates is it is all holistic, meaning the ingredients are natural; no lab engineered ingredients are used. I mention this because the goats were added to our homestead so she could use their milk to make soaps.
Have you ever bred animals?
You would think it would be easy to breed a goat, it most certainly is not. We put them together two or three times before it actually worked. It is also very hard to tell when a goat is pregnant because their stomachs are always puffy as a byproduct of their digestion process; I will not elaborate to what that means. Unfortunately the pigmy goat experienced a very serious abscess problem within her utter and, after surgery, she has been retired from any further milk producing duties. With the pygmy out of the equation it was all left to Hazel, The Nigerian dwarf.
We bred her on more than one occasion last fall and finally felt confident that we might have been successful because she was just acting different and her belly did look a little bit bigger than normal.
We started to make preparations of having a little goat joining our pool of animals. We also took this opportunity to add to the lessons we have given our two teenage kids about where babies come from and how they are born. They were going to witness, firsthand, how babies are born; how many kids get to experience that?
Delivering a Baby
Someone always had a close eye watching Hazel to see if she began to show signs of going into labor. Excitement was running rampant when she began to have contractions. We did our research and discovered that predicting a goat’s length or labor was very difficult. Some people swore it would take hours while others said days; my wife dug in for the long haul and, as always, was up to this new challenge. She found the old baby monitor we used when our kids were babies and setup her monitoring station. She would also get up all ungodly hours of the night to go and check on the future mommy.
I woke up shortly after midnight to her rustling around in our closet for extra layers because she knew the baby was hours away from joining our family and she was determined to be there as Hazel’s midwife, plus she wanted the kids to see him or her enter the world. I left for work that morning and she was still out there with Hazel, patiently waiting in the cold morning air for the new baby.
Later that morning I called to see how everything was going and I could just hear something wasn’t right in my wife’s voice. I asked if Hazel gave birth and she said that she did. My joy quickly vanished when my wife told me the baby was stillborn, I was shocked. Apparently the little guy looked perfectly healthy for a little goat but something had gone terribly wrong during the previous few hours. From what we can gather our guess is the placenta came off of the uterine walls because it came out right before the baby.
Our little lesson in life for our kids quickly turned into a lesson about death that none of us were prepared for. We have had to bury chickens before because of our neighbor’s dog getting into our yard, or even because of old age, but this was new for all four of us. My wife and kids had witnessed her give birth to a perfect looking baby goat that never had a chance to live his life; it hit my daughter especially hard because she loves animals and was really looking forward to having a little goat running around the yard.
As like any animals we lose we dug a spot in the yard and had a brief funeral for him. My daughter named him Daybreak, because he was born right as the sun came up; we thought it was a beautiful name and very fitting for the little guy who was a spitting image of his daddy.