When I found out that O'Keeffe had been put to sleep, I was trying to deal with it in a clouds and sunshine manner - picturing Keeffe as a revitalised, younger dog running around happily in that mysterious yet blissful place that you convince yourself exists when you're grieving.
Then, out of the recesses of my addled mind I recalled something from my childhood. When I was 13, one of our dogs had to be put to sleep rather suddenly. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease one day, and two days later he was dead. An aunt I was really close to died two years before, but due to my age, I wasn't capable of comprehending all the complex thoughts and emotions which accompany the death of someone you love. By the time of the dog's death, I was in a religiously neutral state due to an overpowering need to be anti-establishment. Nonetheless, a belief in the afterlife was something on which I didn't waver. I had to believe there was something, or else each loss in my present and future would be insurmountable. My Mom, a stalwart and unfaltering Presbyterian, kindly informed me that animals didn't have souls, and as such, never went to heaven. Thanks Mom.
Apparently animals, being a lesser species, aren't allowed souls. Otherwise, they would be on the same level as us ever-so-evolved humans, and how could that possibly be? This revelation rocked my fragile world, and drove me to phone a late night radio talk show to seek advice on how to cope. I was a dorky pre-teen and listened to AM talk radio on a nightly basis. I even went to sleep listening to it, as I found it calming for some strange reason. I can't remember what advice I was given, but I do remember that I still felt lost. Since I'm confessing to the nerdiest of pasts, I might as well also add that I couldn't listen to the Bryan Adams song, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" for months after the dog's death because it was my favourite new song when he was alive. Who would have guessed that such a strange child would develop into me?
Anyway, this recollection of my Mom's parental miss-step made me think about what The Dude and I would do in such a situation with P. The Dude is a hardcore atheist, not believing that humans have souls, let alone the little furry things. If P. experienced the loss of a pet at a young age, I can't possibly imagine telling her that her dog was dead forever and just rotting in the ground. Thankfully, The Dude agrees with me, so that's one major argument avoided. Children deserve a little less reality and a little more cushioning sometimes.
What have you done, or what would you do in that situation? Pass on your own beliefs, even if they are difficult to deal with? Stuff the family pet and set it within a dazzling tableau vivant? What?