Friday, August 12, 2011
Loss of a pet, dealing with loss and autism
I had something else I wanted to touch on today, but I'm switching things up again. Sometimes current events demand attention. You never know what surprise may overtake you.
Cupid the pet rat was very sick and suffering. She wasn't drinking water and barely ate the food I gave her. Despite cage cleanings, she had contracted mites (they are very common and can come from almost anywhere). Despite treatment, they could not be stopped or gotten rid off. I will have to throw her cage out to be sure they're gone because of how hardy these nasty vermin turned out to be. Our other rat doesn't have them, thankfully.
It's never easy to send a pet friend on their way and sadly, I had to do this last night. Now, let me tell you, I have a great deal of experience in this unfortunate skill from working with animals as long as I have. I was a breeder of rats long, long ago and I worked for an Animal Control Agency for six years. In that time, I've had to put down all manner of injured wildlife. I had to put down many a sick rat with cancerous tumors or other ailments that prevented them from thriving. When you cold have 10 litters of rats growing at numbers of 20 per litter (average), it was impossible to avoid.
Anyway, Cupid was very special. She would let you pick her up and take her anywhere. She would let a hyper child with autism hold her. She would ride on our shoulders and nestle into anyone's long hair. She was cute and loveable. She could teach you to enjoy a rat's company. My son was very attached to her. I hated what I had to do. I hated to deliver the news as well. He fell into my lap when I told him she had to go last night. He cried for a good ten minutes as I discussed how I understood his feelings.
I offered to do a burial in the backyard and he accepted readily. Out in the back yard is the remains of an old stump someone tried to burn out. It's center was only dirt and ashes. Looking around the yard, I realized that there would likely be nothing under the stump. It should be safe to dig there. So I did and I managed to get the hole a good foot and half deep before digging into hard clay. We put poor Cupid to rest there and my son said a few words of goodbye. Then we filled it in and talked some more.
Loss is a hard change and change is already hard for autistics. All you can do, is be supportive and understanding. Offer to do things that help bring closure and remind of the good times. Don't go for instant replacement. Time is needed to get full closure or anything close to that. In getting a new pet, you shouldn't be getting a replacement. You should be getting a "new" pet, with an identity and history all it's own. That way, you don't find yourself constantly looking at this new animals as a replacement for Fido or who ever.
We still have a family of pets that need our love and support. We still have a big ol boy rat named Mocha Joe who needs attention. He's not the same, but we still have him and he is who he is. My son will be fine, but it's a tough loss for any child, conditions or not.