Last summer, our yard and our neighbor's yard was infested with fleas. It was horrible. The neighbors had a decrepit old dog named Chip, and he was utterly miserable with the fleas.
He might have also been the cause.
By the end of the summer, the fleas were gone, and so was Chip. He had been put to sleep, whether because he was actually sick and dying, or because he was prolonging the battle with the fleas, I'm honestly not sure.
Chip was a constant in our backyard play. Caleb always said hi to him. He always peed in our general direction when we came out to play. When he didn't show up, I think Caleb assumed Chip was just sleeping in his dog house. Time went by, and Caleb never questioned where Chip was. Finally, he did, and I simply said something like, "He's not there any more." Caleb still talked about him as if he was still very much alive, and just always in his dog house.
Two days ago, our neighbor happened to come out into the back yard. In true Caleb fashion, Caleb ran to the fence and said:
"Excuse me! Do you have a dog named Chip?"
"I did, but he died." And with that, the neighbor went inside.
For months, I've been protecting this little secret that I knew would break Caleb's heart. And now, there it was. Boom.
Caleb turned to me, his face fallen, his lower lip starting to poke its way out. He slowly walked over and told me what the neighbor had said. Then he asked, "What about the other [indoor] dogs? Will they die, too? I think they will, and then we won't have ANY dogs!"
His lip started to quiver.
"I think I need to pray to God."
Then, out came a heartfelt prayer that can only come from a child: "Dear God, Chip died. And he is my favorite dog...and Freddy.* Can you please bring him back from Heaven? Amen."
It was sweet. And a good lesson. How many times do I immediately run to God when something bad happens? And how often have I asked God to perform a miracle? Truly the faith of a child!
I explained to Caleb that Chip was happy in Heaven, and that he would want to stay there.
And that was that! A moment later, Caleb was on to something else. Occasionally, when we're outside playing, he will sigh and say, "I miss Chip." But, to be fair, he also says that of the veterinarian receptionist who left for another job a year ago. He lives for the dramatic.
*Freddy is Caleb's stuffed dog that he sleeps with. I suppose he didn't want Freddy to feel slighted by what he said about Chip being his favorite.