Nostalgic Ethiopan woman looking out the window in deep thought

Single Mom Slice of Life:
When A Pet Passes Away

Please know in advance – this story is NOT meant to offend, upset, disrespect, or alienate pet lovers.  This is the true story of the death of a recent pet, and how the three of us dealt with it.

Now, as a single parent, I’ve been responsible for a lot of things, all on my own.  Shots, school issues, friend issues and uncomfortable life lessons.  The hardest (at least for this most recent memory span) is being the sole adult responsible for dealing with the loss of a pet.

Justin received a guinea pig for his birthday.  As tends to be the case with parents/children/pets, I was the one responsible for Little Man.  I fed, I watered, I changed cages, I checked pet supplies, etc.  No shock there, right?  It’s possible that our bond developed over the summer when I moved him out of Justin’s room into the living room.  I talked to him, watched TV with him, and on one wine filled Tuesday night, I danced with him in the living room.  (The windows were open.  The neighbors stood on the curb and clapped.  I’m not proud.)  Anyway, I admit, I was a little sad when Justin came back from his summer vacation, and Little Man was moved back into his room.

Pause – so brief recap about my children’s relationship – they’ve reached that stage where they don’t like each other often.  It’s rare when they are in the same room and getting along with one another without a bribe or threat of some sort being involved.

Related: Ask Rene: Daughter In Distress

Ok, back to our story.  While picking up the living room, feeding the fish, starting a load of laundry, I hear Justin call for Nick, and then heard a door close.  There was no yelling, no screaming, no name calling, so naturally I was worried they were beating each other to death.

Instead, they emerged from the room, solemn, and stood before me, and my 13 year old gave the following speech: “Mom, ok, so, you we knew that this day might come.  We knew that the smaller the pet, the shorter the life spandex (not an auto-correct, he really said that) of an animal.  Now, we know you liked him, and we loved that you would talk to him so we wouldn’t have to hear your boring stories anymore.”

At which point my 18 year old spoke up with, “Dude’s dead.  I checked.”

It occurred to me as I stood looking down at the, sadly, very dead guinea pig that this was a parental hurdle I had yet to face.  I stared at the guinea pig.  The kids stared at me.  The dogs stared the boys.  The thoughts that ran through my head included, “We live in Arizona where the ground is hard and covered in rocks – so burying it is out.”; “Is there a reason everyone is staring at me?”; “Is there some sort of reaction I should be watching for from the boys to make sure they’re okay?”; “When does the trash go out next?”

Related: Guest Posting: 5 Ways To Help Your Kids In Times Of Tragedy

In the end, it turns out no one has purchased new shoes in recent history, and it seemed callous to use a plastic shopping bag.  So we emptied out an old Candy Land box and went about the dirty duty of saying good-bye to Little Man.  Ok, in the spirit of honesty, yeah, we dropped the box.  And, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to have the kid with the torn ACL be the one to hold the dogs back while we made the trek to the trash can in the garage.  And I really really wish that I had changed the garage light when it first burnt out two weeks ago.  No one was more surprised than I when we were able to finish the task at hand without it turning into an Abbott and Costello act… plus, it turns out that the dogs are easily distracted with popcorn treats.

After we stood, taking turns washing our hands at the sink, I had one last thought.  “Um, maybe we should have said something?  Maybe we can say it now?”

At the same time Justin suggested, “You’re crying so hard snot is running down your nose,” Nick asked, “does this mean we have to eat those carrots for dinner now, because I don’t like cooked carrots.”

In the end, I was given a few hugs, a couple of pats on the back, and a handmade card saying, “Sorry you lost it.”  Sigh.  This is my life.  It just won’t be the same without you, Little Man.

What about you?  Have you had to deal with the loss of a pet?  Did it go as planned or expected?  Were you the only one traumatized by it?


Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent since 2002, with two boys ages 13 and 18. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and has returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.

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