When Your Child’s First Pet Dies

There are many life changing things about including a pet in your family. When you have a child with disabilities, pets can make a marked difference to their quality of life. Pets are more work in a “get off the couch and walk these ding dongs and change that litter and fill that food bowl…” sort of way, but I can’t imagine life without an animal by my side or under the covers. (Even though they should be in their crate. I know, I know…)

The only true downside to pets, aside from mild annoyances like the occasional whining to go out for a pee at 5am, or fur on your favourite black yoga pants, is the ultimate downside which is of course the death of your best fur friend. 

That’s the part that almost makes me never want to love an animal again. We become attached and they become family. Watching them go is hard. If you’re a pet person, you understand this completely. 

Some losses are harder than others. When our guinea pig Ernie died from a seizure we were sad, but we’d had him less than a year and our connection wasn’t as deep as it was with other pets—like our Roger. 

I heard about him passing from miles away and I felt like I had to be strong. Today when I think about our journey with him, I know it’s okay to cry. 

When Avery was nearly three and still nowhere near walking, her physio therapist asked what truly motivated her. I said without hesitation, “Dogs!” So she suggested we get a dog to help motivate Avery to get up after it. 

It just so happened my sister-in-law is a veterinarian and she came across a small chihuahua/terrier mix who needed a home. After some discussion, and after meeting him, we decided he was a Thornbury. We adopted “Chopper” who became Roger, and he was just what the doctor ordered. Within weeks Avery was up off the floor, chasing after her new friend. She started walking just to be closer to him. 

We owe her new mobility and enduring adoration of all things furry, to this sweet rescued boy. 

Roger had a difficult start in life. He was neglected and abused. Even until the end he was timid, but he was loyal and loving to anyone who showed him the slightest kindness. 

With us for nearly eleven years, when we added a flabby tabby named Kevin to our family three years ago, Roger adapted. But when Ruby the Yorkie puppy came to live with us Roger, a senior dog by this time, found the chaos to be a bit much. I worried the puppy would take on his aggressive behaviour. Not that he was aggressive by nature—he was simply old and easily annoyed. He didn’t appreciate the feline and puppy antics that were suddenly inflicted upon him. 

Thankfully my parents agreed to take him in. They had recently lost their beloved Aussie mix, Jazz and were hesitant to open their hearts to a new and senior doggy. But they did and we are so grateful. They gave him a year and a half of unconditional love and spoiled attention. When the day came last week to make the difficult decision to send him over “the Rainbow Bridge” to doggy heaven, they did so with respect and so much love. 

Roger had declined this year. He was suffering from kidney failure and was no longer playing “Are You Faster Than A Chihuahua?” or  pursuing his true love, Maya (in the bridal veil below) who Roger married in an elaborate furemony… Yes, we had a legit dog wedding, don’t judge. 😉

How dapper does Roger look in this construction paper top hat?


Roger is gone now and his absence is acute. The finality of it hit me hard as I went through old photos of him this morning. Only a dog. Just a pet. But he was so much more than that to us.

He depended on us for life and love. We weren’t there when the vet gently and lovingly eased him into sleep. My family and I were away on vacation and it would’ve been selfish to make him wait until we got home. To prolong his suffering a minute longer would’ve been cruel. He was ready to go, but I wish we were able to say goodbye and thank you. 

Rogie, you were Sebastian and Avery’s first pet. We loved you completely. Your paw print and dog tag sit in a frame beside Avery’s bed now.

Despite mistrusting humans, and for good reason, you trusted us. Thank you for letting us love you and for sensing that Avery needed you in an extra special way. Thanks for spending your life with us. You taught us so much and we will be furever in your debt.

Save travels over the Rainbow Bridge little man. 


Lisa, Adrian, Sebastian, Avery, Maya, Ernie, Kevin and Ruby 

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