Saturday, May 1, 2010

Poor Us

In one of my first posts I introduced you to our dog Copper. In it I referred to him as Poor Copper because inevitably that is what his name turned into after years of witnessing his, at times, impoverished attitude and his ranking in a house full of boys.

This week it has become Poor Us as we made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize Copper after a brief but aggressive encounter with cancer.

As difficult as it was to make that decision, telling our boys added to our grief and weighed on our ability to be rational with regard to Copper's quality of life.We told the boys about Copper's illness and our decision the night before we were taking Copper to the vet. We started the conversation by reading the book "The Forever Dog" and it really helped to start the conversation.
Rhys figured it out half way through the story that we were talking about Copper.
He began to cry and then Ash began to cry. Kinley sensed something because he just clung to me.
Copper feeling overwhelmed by all the boys crying over him, got up and left the room.
Damn dogs ARE as stoic as they say.
After the book we told the boys that Copper had cancer and that it was the type of cancer that the vet could not fix and that Copper would not get better. We told them that we had done blood tests and xrays before we realized that our only choice was to let Copper die. We explained what euthanize meant and told them how Copper would be sedated and then the Vet would give him a drug that made his heart stop, then his lungs would stop and his body would stop working and Copper would die. We told them that once this
happened Copper would not be able to hear, see, sniff, feel and everything that made up Copper would be gone, only his body would be left. Then we told the boys that we were going in the morning as a family but that they could participate as much as they felt comfortable.

Rhys wanted to go to school instead of coming with us to the vet. I gently told Rhys that if he got to school and changed his mind there would be no way to reach us. I did not want to force him but I wanted to make sure that he had the opportunity to change his mind. I told him that he did not have to come into the vet or do anything he was not comfortable with and if after Copper had died he still wanted to go to school we would take him. He did come to the vet and he came in to look at the xrays, where the vet showed all the boys the
cancer and explained that this was the best choice for Copper. Rhys was inconsolable.
Ash thought that he wanted to go in with Copper when they euthanized him but I distracted him with a walk and that is when we had a good talk about death and cremation and he cried on his own without the influence of big brother, I think he needed that (I kept saying "Copper's body" with reference to his death and Ash asked where Copper's head and legs would be.... ).
He also asked me about God and Jesus and why if God made Jesus come alive, why he wouldn't do that for Copper....I think I handled it okay for an agnostic, I told him that the belief is that God created all living things to live and to die.
After Copper was dead I asked the boys if they wanted to see him one more time and they said yes. That was so hard, but I pointed out that Copper was not breathing, he would not open his eyes, he could not feel or hear.
It was overwhelming for both boys, so we only stayed a minute and Ash touched him, but Rhys could not.
Kinley was just toddling around and we thought that he was unaware of what was going on but when we left the vet he started to wail unconsolably "My buddy, My Copper" for about 10 minutes, it was heartbreaking.

As a family we went to Build-A-Bear so that the boys could pick out a teddy or dog that would remind them/or be used to remember Copper. Ash and Rhys picked out their stuffed animal and they both named them Copper and we told them that they could talk to the bear and hug the bear whenever they wanted to. That it could hold the memories of Copper and to help them remember him.
Since Kinley is so little we wanted to get him a dog so it would be easier for him to identify it as a non-verbal object to remember Copper by but he gravitated to a bright blue bear with peace symbols in rainbow colours all over it, what can you do! :)

At this point Ash is telling everyone that his dog died, Rhys would like him to shut up and Kinley says "dog died" out of the blue every couple of hours.
Kinley loves "The Forever Dog" book and takes it everywhere and when he does he will say "Copper died" or "doggy."
Ash is also telling everyone that Copper has a new home and right before I corrected him the first time he said it, he piped up and said "it is in my heart." It seems they are all where they should be.

Landy and I are struggling too. This all feels familiar but different. I am in that memory fog, several times yesterday I looked for Copper and I am sure that I will several more times. I even thought I lost my bracelet and had everyone searching and I was panicked, only to realize today that I took it off a week ago and it was in the case. Oh Grief what a wicked game you play!

The boys have already talked about ways they want to memorialize and we have told them that we will give it some time.

I want to share a nice thing that happened later on the day that we euthanized Copper.
After our trip to Build-A-Bear we went out to our trailer to open it and clean it up. When we drove up Copper's tie up was in the ground beside the big pine with the lead attached, so Landy went to take it out of the ground.
The boys and I went over and right there beside the tie up was a Forget-Me-Not, just one.
I don't know how much you know about this flower but they are wild and they spread like crazy, you usually see a field of them, so to see just one is rare. I told the boys about the flower and they said that Copper must have left it and Rhys would like to plant more there. For the rest of the day it seemed that we saw Forget-Me-Nots everywhere we went... it really helped the boys to look for connections and brought them comfort that as much as they would not forget Copper, he would not forget them.


  1. The other day at the park Ashwyn asked me what Jesus looked like. I told him "nobody really knows".
    Love you guys.

  2. Lovely post...thinking of you all. The Build-a-Bear thing is such a good idea.

  3. Amber Lee MoraisMay 26, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    May Copper rest in the forget-me-nots peacefully.

    Lis, here is a poem I thought I would post in remembrance...xo
    My pain and suffering came to an end,
    so don't cry for me, my person, my friend.
    But think of the living -
    those souls with fur
    (some who bark and some who purr) -
    And though our bond can't be broken apart,
    make room for another in your home and
    your heart.