It was said with such utter matter of factness that even if you wanted to there was no room for discussion. I had wondered if the fact that I had to put our old Jack Russell down yesterday afternoon had had any affect on either of my boys – they just seemed to have taken it in their stride.
In the morning there was Biggles and in the afternoon he was gone.
The Littlest has said nothing and I’m not sure if he has noticed. But the Boy has obviously been considering the matter very seriously.
After demanding biscuits and other foodstuffs on immediate entry to the car at pick up time from school this afternoon and as we meander back along the windy Suffolk lanes, he suddenly pipes up from the depths of the back seat.
Him: “What happens when you die?”
Momentarily flustered and veering slightly in the road, bringing us rather too close to the answer in a practical way, I avoided the question with one of my own.
Me: “Who’ve you been talking to about that?”
Him, nonchalantly: “Daniel, Henry … what happened when you killed Biggles?”
Well there you go then. No beating about the bush, no putting a gloss on it, no putting him down or putting him to sleep, just straight out there – when YOU killed him.
Me: “Well,” - not actually trusting myself to commit to the word kill and unsure quite where the conversation is heading – “what do you want to know?”
Me: “What from the start?”
Him, slightly losing his patience: “I want to now everything from the beginning, what happened.”
What happened? So I start by telling him that Biggles was old and probably not very well. I tell him that Biggles had got too grumpy and that when dogs are grumpy it means that something is wrong, perhaps they are in pain. I remind him about Biggles snapping at people and how horrid that was. The Boy takes it all in and I have a feeling he’s not interested in the reasons behind the decision. It seems as if he takes these as read. Would that it were so for me. I am uncomfortable with the word kill – but that is what I did. I don’t want to say it was because Biggles had become too unpredictable and that I was scared.
My musings are brought to a sharp halt.
Him: “Muuuum, what happened at the vets, when you killed him…”
Me: “Right well, um, well, er, I took him into the vets’ on his lead and we went through to a room, which was nice and warm and comfortable, then the vet put him on the table and got a needle out and injected him then Biggles sort of fell asleep and that was that.”
Him: "Where? Where did he put the needle in??"
Right details as well ok then. Blood thirsty little monster.
Me: "His front leg you know sort of like your arm when you have injections…."
WARNING WARNING NOT A GOOD ANALOGY NOW HE’LL THINK THE DOCTOR WANTS TO KILL HIM!!!!!
Him: "Like my injections?"
Me: “ER, well no, um, not really, but in the same place but we don’t do that with humans, you see we have a duty of care with animals and we have to look after them and you see it’s important that we do these things so they never suffer..”
Him: “Like being God?””
Me: “Yes. Like God.”
That was close…
Him: “So now he’s dead - is he in heaven?”
Right. Now Heaven. OK. Dogs and Heaven. Should I say yes ‘cos that’s what I believe or should I sort of fudge it? What has he been told at school? Maybe dogs are not heaven material as far as the Church is concerned? Well I bloody hope they do though ‘cos I love my dogs and it wouldn’t be much of a place if they wern’e there. Right then here goes…
Me: “I’m sure he is.”
Him: “What’s heaven like?”
Why has he chosen now for this conversation? Why when I am driving home has he chosen now to ponder these questions? Next he’ll be asking me how many Angels dance on the head of a pin!
Me: “It’s the best of places. Just think of all the good things you like doing and eating and stuff like that and that’s what it is like I expect.”
The Boy ponders for a while then starts rattling off a list of things he likes doing and it feels like we are on safer ground.
Him: “You get Smarties on your pillow at bedtime in Heaven.”
Him: “Mummy, you wouldn’t have to wash up in Heaven!”