Monday, September 22, 2014


This Saturday, I found myself doing something I never imagined I'd ever do...Performing a funeral service for a large black beetle. A beetle? Yes, a beetle. And, before you judge us as hard-hearted parents who will only let their precious older boy have a pet insect, rather than something cuter, like a goldfish or a hamster, the beetle came from school. Last year, Spencer came home from school with a live black beetle, roughly 2 1/2 inches long. His teacher gave it to him! Apparently, the class had been studying this type of creature, and the teacher offered one to any student who wanted to take one home to raise as a pet. It came with instructions stating that it is not a native species and is considered a pest. We were cautioned, therefore, not to set it free into the environment. (There was, by the way, no parent permission involved in this "gift" of a beetle. It just came home. Spencer had already named it "Austin" after his cousin. How were we supposed to say "No!"???)

So, Austin the Bess Beetle became part of our family. Thankfully, taking care of him involved giving him an old piece of wood to chew upon and spritzing his plastic tank with water every few days. That's the extent of it. No handling necessary by Mom, thank goodness. Spence did a great job meeting Austin's limited needs, checked on him every day, and thoroughly enjoyed his unique little room pet. 

Until Saturday...

Spence had been gone on a 3-day, 2-night field trip with his 5th grade class. He got home Friday night and went to sleep without checking on Austin. Saturday afternoon, he lifted the piece of wood to check on his little bug buddy, and here's what happened next:

Spence came up to me in the kitchen and whispered, "Mom, can you please come into my room with me? But, please don't tell Dad or Foster. Just come." So I wrapped up what I was doing and followed him in.

Entering his room, I found him curled up on the floor by the side of his bed, clutching his favorite soft blanket, his eyes welling over with big, fat tears, lower lip trembling...

"Sweetie, what's wrong? Are you hurt?"

In a whisper so quiet I could barely make it out, he said, "Austin died while I was gone." And, the floodgates broke. He broke into great wracking sobs and threw himself into my arms. Poor kid.

We snuggled on the floor for awhile, as I reassured him that he had been a great owner for Austin. I pointed out that Bess Beetles are only supposed to live for 10 or 11 months, and Austin had lived to the ripe old age of 14 months. I murmured that he was lucky to have had that much time with Austin, and that Austin was lucky to have had such a wonderful boy taking care of him. We hugged for a long time, while my heartbroken little boy cried his heart out for his dead bug. 

Then, he said, "Please don't tell Dad or Foster."

"You don't want them to know? I think they would want to know and be able to comfort you, don't you? They both love you very much."

Sniff. "Mom, I just can't handle anybody else knowing right now. Just you, OK? I want Dad and Foster to find out on their own and ask me about it when I'm not feeling quite so sad." Sob, sniff. 

Is it wrong that I felt a little thrill knowing that the only person he wanted to pour his little heart out to was me? It's not that I wanted him to feel sad or to experience this loss, but something in me was filled with joy as he snuggled close to me for comfort in his time of need. Perhaps it's the recognition that these precious times are fleeting, and that there will be a time, soon enough, when the person he goes to for comfort is not his Mom...

So, trying to help him find some closure over the loss of Austin, I suggested that we find a nice place in the garden to bury him while Dad was dropping Foster off at a playdate. Spence wrapped him gently in kleenex and chose a spot in the garden. I cut a few flowers, and Spencer picked a couple of pretty rocks to use as a marker. Spencer placed him oh-so-gently in the little grave, and we solemnly covered him with dirt, laying the rocks and flowers on top. Spencer looked up at me with huge eyes, swimming with tears, and said, 

"He was a really good beetle, wasn't he?"

"Yes, sweetie. A very good beetle."

"And, I'd rather have had the time I had with him and lose him, than not ever have him at all."

"I feel the same way, sweetie."

"I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too."



Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Doodle" This!

Have you noticed how many people now have "Labradoodles?" I'm probably spelling it wrong, but it's a half-labrador/half-poodle, and they're everywhere. Now, don't get me wrong, I am a dog-lover from way back. (Although I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of chihuahuas. In my opinion, chihuahuas don't actually qualify as "dogs." To me, they fall more into the category of say, a guinea pig, or a pet rabbit.)

It didn't start out this way, but the Labradoodle craze has really taken off, and the way it's going sort of cracks me up. They're really great dogs -- Sweet, smart, loyal, good with kids, don't shed very much, blah, blah, blah. I totally get that. I have a friend who bought a Labradoodle, because her son suffers from severe allergies, and he's been a wonderful addition to the family, for all of the right reasons! But, the part that kills me, is how many people are starting to get snooty about having one. I hear it at the dog park, on walks, all over the place. It's like the "cool kids" are the ones with the Labradoodles. High School cliques revisited, only with big, fluffy dogs, instead of name-brand jeans:

"My friend's Labradoodle had a litter, so my Spin Cycle class all decided to buy one of the puppies at the same time. They are SO cute! They cost $800 each! We named them Duffy, Muffy, Buffy, Fluffy, Scruffy, and Snuffy. We leave the kids with the nannies, put on our yoga pants, and all get together to take the puppies out on walks after our morning latte. They have matching bandanas! Isn't that precious? Everyone stops and stares! Only Shelly didn't want to buy one, because she wanted a mutt from the Humane Society. She says that mutts make the best pets. A mutt! Can you believe it?!!! We're thinking of booting her from our group. She doesn't really fit in with the rest of us anyway."

Um....Two different breeds mixed together resulting in a puppy that's a blend of both...Doesn't that make a Labradoodle just a very expensive "mutt"? And, didn't breeders choose those two breeds, because mutts really do make the best pets?  Hmmm...

There are so many wonderful mutts (not to mention cats, horses, and other animals) in Humane Societies all over the country, just waiting for homes and families to love. I hope that, someday, the really cool thing to do is to adopt dogs from there, with bragging rights going to the people who have absolutely NO idea which breeds blended together to result in their unique mutt..."Even our vet can't tell WHAT sort of dog Sparky is. Not a clue. Maybe Rhodesian Ridgeback, with a mix of Beagle and German Shepherd? Who knows? Isn't that great?"

By the way, for the Labradoodle owners who may have chosen that particular dog just to jump on the "cool kids" bus....I was informed by a man at the dog park last weekend, in a very hoity toity manner, that "Goldendoodles" (half golden retriever/half poodle) are far superior.


As I write this post, my old mutt, Lucy, who is some blend of black lab and who-knows-what-else, is lying on the floor next to me, paws twitching away as she dreams a doggy dream...She's a great dog and has been a wonderful member of our family for almost 14 years. And, to all of the other wonderful Humane Society mutts who've been in my life since I was a baby -- Heather, Duchess, Max, Sam, Lady, and my sweet little Cosmo -- Thanks for the unconditional love and for all of the happiness you've brought into my life. I'll love you forever!

Now, everybody go pet your dog!  (Or cat, or bunny, or iguana, or...)