Last week we had to say goodbye to one of our dogs. She wasn't an old pup. She was 7. While her death hit me like a ton of bricks and still does, I worried more about how her death would impact my children. We had gotten her as a puppy and at that time we where in the process of getting my daughter diagnosed with Autism after a very long battle with her PCM and my husband being deployed in Iraq. The puppy was a welcomed joy within our house. While my eldest had the curiosity of neurotypical 5 year old, my daughter, who at the time was non verbal saw this puppy as something completely different. Here was this little animal that was bouncing around playfully, barking and being silly, that was so out of my daughter's norm, she didn't know what to make of it.At first she would follow the dog around and the dog would follow her around. But since she didn't have the voice to vocalize her feelings towards to the dog, she just sat back observed. Something she still does quite well. As for the dog, well she was getting used to her new family as well. There were moments between the barking and playing where little girl and little dog would have their bonding. Just sitting and watching the world do it's thing. When we finally got my daughter into the services and programs she needed, we started to hear words come out of her mouth. Slowly and surely, she was able to call the dog by her name. Mojo. She lit up like a Christmas tree when the dog came to her when she called out her name. Thus became the relationship the little girl had with her dog. Through out the 7 years of Mojo's life, we have added a few to our family. Another dog for Mojo and another sibling for Little Miss. Mojo was happy to have another furry companion added to our pack just as we were all happy to have another baby in our family. In a few short years we would come to learn that our youngest, would have special needs of his own. Mojo, with her gentle nature was there as a calming force. She didn't mind that the kids stimmed around her. When my youngest would get over excited about something, she was there beside to help him with his sensory overload. In a way, she was our own little therapy dog. No she wasn't formally trained, but she had the instincts to know when she was needed to calm things.
It's been a week since her death, while our other dog had gotten used to his bud not being around and my eldest is also getting used to her not being here, my other two are going through their own way of grieving. Little Miss, who doesn't talk much when it comes to relating to emotions, grieves with questions. While we have had many conversations about death and what happens after something had died, everyday we are met with the same questions over and over again. She didn't get upset like my eldest, but she had noted that Mojo isn't here anymore and that her friend is gone. As for my youngest, he knows there is only one tail to get excited about instead of two. I have noticed that instead of screaming "PUPPIES" when seeing the other dog, he just yells excitedly, "PUPPY" and taps the other dog gently on the head. This goes to show we all grieve in our way. We all express our feelings differently. Autism or not.
The kids picked out a picture they all liked of Mojo and put it in a frame, that now sits on a table with grandparents and relatives that since passed on. I have always told them, that the best way to remember someone or something they loved that has passed on, was to treasure the good memories they had with that person or thing. Keeping the memories alive in their hearts, keeps the spirit alive.
It is remarkable on just how much impact a little dog could have on our family. We have been a bit lost without her, but in time I know we will find our way, just as she is finding her way on the Rainbow Road.