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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

It's the way you tell them.....

In theory, dealing with the death of a pet is supposed to be a valuable if painful lesson for children in understanding the fragility of life, allowing them to grieve, to say goodbye, sometimes in a ritualised way such as a burial, and to move on.

In theory.

My friend L has been looking after the guinea pigs and hamster that belong to her brother's terribly over-indulged children, while they all went off for a week's holiday. She visited the little creatures twice daily, possibly offering a more dedicated service in terms of care, attention, food and cage-cleaning than the children ever gave their pets.

Yesterday, she discovered that one of the guinea pigs had died.

Very upset, she spent time wrapping the guinea pig and placing it in a box ready for burial when the family returned some time today.

Then she rang her brother in his  seaside cottage.

"Michael, are you on your own?" she began, voice quavering.

"Of course I'm not alone!" he responded, somewhat testily. "We're all here!"

"Well, listen before you say anything aloud", said L. "I have some sad news for you to break to the children. I found Libby in the hutch this evening. She died today."

"OH MY GOD!" roared Michael to his family. "LIBBY'S DEAD!"

And by close of play today, that guinea pig had been replaced by another, and the dead one remains in its box, unburied, already forgotten. L is most likely to take it away and bury it herself.

There's a lesson there somewhere, that's for sure.