If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you may already know we lost our only pet recently.
Pixel was Alexis’ hedgehog, really. She’s the one that researched hedgehogs and pleaded for one for a year, paid for her (not cheap!), and took care of her the most. Still, we all loved Pixel right off the bat. Most surprisingly, was me. I especially don’t like dogs and cats. There are people in our lives I really don’t want to know that, because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. But I never knew, or wondered, what I would think of a quilled little creature, until Pixel came along . . . . . .
I surprised myself the day she came home as a little baby, and I kind of fell for her. She really was the sweetest little thing. Just a quilled little handful of love.
And she never grew too much bigger than that. In the next couple of years, Alexis and Pixel were practically inseparable.
Many school days, Pixel was with Alexis while she did her school work.
She got lots of love and attention, in between subjects.
We were always trying to get her to eat fruits or vegetables. We thought she’d feel privileged this one day, with the first strawberries pick of the season from our garden, but she declined.
And not politely, but with a HUFF.
The kids loved to play with her, giving her rides and such. . . . . .
. . . . .and Pixel loved to find places to hide. She was always looking for somewhere to curl up into a ball, and go to sleep.
It was hilarious when she went under the truck, but couldn’t back up to get out, because of her quills.
She even became somewhat of a little star.
She occasionally went places with us, since she was pocket-sized, and potty-trained too!
Once, she even we went down to the Plymouth Waterfront with us. People were so intrigued with her.
“What is it? A porcupine?”
She’s been a part of our life, So we were all getting concerned when she seemed to be having some health problems a few months back. Alexis made an appointment for her (her first ever!) with Firehouse Veterinary Clinic who somewhat specialized in exotic animals, and although it took a few weeks on a medication, Pixel seemed to get better. But then she wasn’t again. She was not eating much, and she had lost a lot of weight. Alexis was really upset about it, not knowing what was wrong or how to help her get better for good, and so was the trio. She went back to the vet again, and after an examination, and Pixel not even huffing through it all, the vet said there was nothing he really could do to help her. Alexis was crushed. He did offer to put her to sleep, but Alexis declined, since we had every intention of voting NO on Question 2. (Physician Assisted Suicide). So the vet gave Alexis some sugar water, and some special wet food, to try and give her at home.
Surprisingly, Alexis did get Pixel eating pretty well, although she was hand-feeding her with a syringe. But she seemed to be doing better for a few days, and we all had hope Pixel would recover. We were happy to report that, when the vet’s called to check on how Pixel was doing. But only a few days later, she went downhill again. Alexis was distraught that day, and felt so helpless. She set Pixel up beside her bed that night, and got up all night giving her a drink of water with the syringe and comforting her, because Pixel seemed too weak to even be able get up and stand anymore. She had stopped eating altogether.
The next morning, it was a school day, but none of us cared. The kids were gathered around Pixel, and they were all so quiet. Pixel was lying on her pretty flowered fleece blanket on the table, just blinking. The kids knew it wasn’t looking good for. She was not doing well at all. Definitely worse than the night before. Her breathing was labored, and she hardly moved. I couldn’t help but watching the 4 of them, with their quiet moods, and compassionate expressions on their faces, as they spoke quietly to her, and stroked her quills softly, in the morning sunlight that came through the windows onto the table. These were the tough lessons in life, we all need to learn how to face. As much as I wish I could forever protect my children from any sadness and heartaches that life brings, I can’t. I knew, while this was so difficult for them, these moments were preparing them for much harder losses in their life to come.
And as they held her tiny paw, she took her last breathe.
Alexis scooped her up and just sobbed. The trio were all quietly crying too. I think maybe, they hurt more for seeing Alexis hurt so much, than they did for the loss of Pixel.
So did I.
We all said goodbye to her, and Alexis wrapped her in her prettiest fleece blanket.
When Michael (Daddy) came home, he built a small casket for her.
Alexis used her wood-burner to engrave it with her name and dates.
And still wrapped in her blanket, she laid her inside. Michael nailed it closed.
And Alexis cried more tears.
That night I didn’t sleep well. As I lied in bed thinking about the rough day we had had, I knew we had done many things right in preparing our kids for things like this. Sickness. Death. The loss of a loved one. In my own life experiences, I never went to a wake until I was in high school. My siblings and I had been to many funerals of neighbors or relatives, but never to a wake. It was my uncle’s, and it was a loss I felt the most sad about up until that point in my life, than any I had had before. So I had wished I had been to wakes, before his.
But the very first real loss I had of someone in my life, who I loved a lot, was my mother. I had never really lost someone close to me before. I had never even known grief, until I lost her. What a way to break me in. It hit me like a train. I was not prepared for the emotional toll it took on me. At all. The grief was deep for months. And I was in my mid 30’s. But I felt like a child, in my difficulty coming to terms with the loss, like a child. Maybe because I was the child. So I have wanted to do all l I can to prepare my kids for losing those they love, and helping them learn how to deal with those feelings, talk about it, and find the comforts that help them cope. Alexis, the oldest, has already lost 2 grandparents she loved dearly. She had established a relationship with them, loved them, and had many memories of both of them. So she has felt the loss of them in her heart. The trio were too young to remember a whole lot of either of their grandparents they lost. Some memories, but not years of them. So it’s been easier for them. Still, they have lost others they have known since, and for all they have attended their wakes, and their funerals if possible. With lots of conversations before and after, of course, and they have handled it all very well.
So it is with the loss of Pixel. Sure, she was just a pet. But I think it is important for them to go through the process, because they, especially Alexis, was so sad to to lose her. While no one ever gets used to losses, or gets good at all of the feelings that come with it, I do think it is important for children to become slowly familiar with it all, and not shelter them from the realities of it. I feel it’s right for my children anyway, and Michael agrees. Death, the loss, and grief, are all a part of God’s greater plan for every life. But it’s real and it’s necessary to face these things with the smaller losses, or those people they haven’t known very well or were very close to. Because the sadness is still there. Not just our own, but other’s. I’ve been grateful to be able to be there for my children and help them through it, as we’ve lost ones we love in our life together so far.
Knowing we did need to go through the rest of the process for Pixel, and still lying in bed pondering through the night hours, I wondered where we could bury her in the yard. It took a bit of thinking, because probably next year or so, every part of our yard, both upper and lower, will be completely dug up and rearranged. So I was trying to think of somewhere that would definitely not be getting disturbed. That’s when I thought of in the railroad-tie planter walls behind the house. It was perfect.
The next morning, Michael dug Pixel’s grave, to bury her.
With the trio by her side, Alexis put her beloved hedgehog in the ground.
I gave Alexis a stone cross I had had, to use as Pixel’s grave marker, which I thought was so appropriate and feminine. Pixel was a girl, after all.
But surprisingly, her father also gave her permission to burn her name into the railroad-tie wall. I was surprised he let her do that. But she really wanted to, and again, I feel like these are the things that help one cope with the loss, and give us closure. Even the burning itself, on the little casket, and letter by letter, into the wall.
It was all harder than I ever imagined experiencing, over a pet. I mean, we had lost a couple beta fish before, Bubbles and then Reagan -the red Republican fish.
Then there was William, the royal turtle. They managed those losses quite fine.
But Pixel, the Catholic Hedgehog, was just different, for my kids.
What was hardest for me, was watching my girl have such a hard time.
She was so sad.
She was breaking my heart. But I was glad to be there whenever she needs me, to help comfort her through it all. And I was really proud with all she did to take care of Pixel, all by herself.
She had handled the vet appointments all by herself and everything. From the calls for appointments, to the actual exam and discussion with the doctor, in there all by herself. Because she wanted to. She took care of Pixel right to the end, and laid her to rest with her own hands too.
And we all kind of smile now, when we look out the window, and remember Pixel.
She really was a quilled little handful of love.
And she taught our kids so much; About responsibility, and love.
And letting go.
While we hold on to the memories that make us smile, and our hearts grow happy again.
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