Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jack and Hoover

Jack loves Hoover. He loves Hoover's ears and how soft they are. When we first told Jack that Hoover was dying, Jack knew what that meant because he's asked us repeatedly about Shemya, our first dog. My mother painted a beautiful portrait of Shemya and we have pictures of Shemya scattered all over the house, so even though she died before Jack was born, he knows of her. He knows that she died of a heart attack when she was old, that she's not with us anymore, and that she is in heaven. He also knows that Great-Grandma Ann died when she was old and is in heaven, too.

When we told him that Hoover was old and dying, he went into denial. "We are NOT saying good-bye to Hoover!"

A few days after we broke the news, Jack played his guitar and sang, very matter-of-factly:

"I don’t want you to die. Please don’t do it. Please don’t diiiiiieeeee!"

One morning last week, Jack saw Hoover lying on the ottoman and asked, "Is Hoover dead yet?" When I said no, he said, "Okay." He then went to Hoover and rubbed his ear. I wonder if he's afraid of touching Hoover once he's dead, but because of his autism, Jack can't answer questions like that. It's extremely unusual to get a good answer to any question that isn't completely concrete and specific. "What do you want to eat?" "Do you want to ride your bike?" These are questions Jack can answer.

"What are you thinking about Hoover's dying?" That's hard for us to know beause if Jack answers at all, he'll usually say, "I love you, Mommy" or "I don't want to talk about that now." How much beyond the literal does he understand? That's been harder to discern.

Saturday night, as we went upstairs to go to bed, Jack paused at my mom's portrait of Shemya. He kissed two of his fingers and placed them on the glass over Shemya's mouth and said, "Don't worry, Shemya. He'll be with you soon."

It seems to me now that Jack understands enough, probably more than the rest of us do. I just wish the understanding made it easier to say good-bye to our furry friend.


  1. Susan, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. Big ones.

    Last week, I think, PBS aired "Through a Dog's Eyes," about training assistance dogs and matching them to their humans. I watched my recording yesterday and had tears then, too. Guess it's time to get a dog myself....

    On a non-canine note, when I first saw your orange circle card, I thought, "wow - I love those tiny squares!" Then I read on and saw they were your fave part too!

  2. What a sweet boy. Between the photo and and Jack "talking" to Shemya, I'm here at work with tears in my eyes. Cherish your time with Hoover.

  3. Oh my, Susan - my heart is just aching for you. Several years ago, our dog passed away. It was like losing a family member. Jack, more than likely, understands much more than we think he does. That picture of the two of them together is priceless, and will need to go up on the wall next to the other pic! Blessings and hugs, my friend.

  4. Oh, Susan, I'm so sorry for you all. Losing a dear furry friend is so hard.

    The picture of Jack with Hoover is sweet, and what he said to Shemya's picture shows a level of empathy for Shemya--that's she'll be gaining a friend. That is really touching, since he didn't even know Shemya.

  5. You've been touching my heart with your stories about Hoover but now, seeing the picture with Jack, I have tears. Our younger son, Caleb, is so close with our dog. I dread the day when she is no longer with us! It is a blessing for Hoover to have lived with such a loving family!

  6. That made me cry. What a wise little boy.

  7. Sad and beautiful at the same time. I've got tears in my eyes too

  8. Blubb!

    My son is not autistic but has been touched by the death of a pet...I love how kids deal with death (is that odd???). When my mum's cat died he said that he probably "should" be crying but he didnt want to because he had been waiting for it to happen for so long. When my dad was dying and I had to rush back to the hospital I told my son what was happening and that he would possibly die that night...my son told me "Its ok though, because he is old and ill" - shocking at the time but soooo lovely now.

    Am now thoroughly in tears!



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