Adoption is full of beauty, but it is also full of loss. Our son Snuggle Puppy was 7 years old when we adopted him from Ethiopia 2 years ago. Though that was a wonderful thing for our family and though it means that he is an orphan no longer, it means that he has already experienced tremendous loss in his young life. Snuggle Puppy has lost more in 9 years than most adults have. One of the losses in his life was leaving behind pet dogs when he went into the orphanage. He is a huge animal lover.
For a long time after we brought him home, we considered getting him a pet, but since two of our girls are allergic to dogs and Miss Optimism is allergic to almost all animals, we put it off. We could see though that this boy (whose future aspiration is to be a vet) needed to have a pet. One of my hesitations was the grief that a pet’s death would bring for him, but a few months ago, I took him to a pet store and bought him a hamster. He named his white rodent Snow and fell in love instantly. He took such great care of the little guy and it was really good for him.
Fast forward to over a week ago…Snow went missing. Search parties were set up in the basement. The kids listened for him, cleared out the storage room when they thought they heard rustling noises, and prayed for his safe return. On Friday, we gave up the search and Snuggle Puppy was heartbroken. He sobbed in my arms and wanted to be held most of the day. From an attachment standpoint, I was reassured that he came to me for comfort, but I was so sad for him.
Late Saturday night, a miracle occurred in our house…Fred found Snow alive!!! He put him back in his cage in Snuggle Puppy’s room. Sunday morning, Snuggle Puppy came up to our room and told us his amazement upon waking up to his hamster there. “I thought I was really dreaming!”
Then early this evening when The Husband and I were out on a date, our babysitter called and let us know that Snow had died. Snuggle Puppy was beside himself and needed me to come home right away. I did. (there may be some that think that me leaving a date with my husband because a hamster died is extreme, but believe me, though we have had many hamsters die over the years, this was different)
On my way home, I had a little conversation with God. I was not impressed. I didn’t understand why He would have allowed us to find the hamster ALIVE only to have him die less than a week later, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a blessing that was. It became even more apparent when I got another phone call telling me that the hamster was still breathing (barely). You see, Snuggle Puppy has had so many losses in his life and though this loss will bring those emotions to the surface and be another loss for him, the circumstances allowed for something he had never had the opportunity for before…the chance to say good-bye.
It was a painful night. When I got home, I talked to Snuggle Puppy about some of the other losses he has had and about not being able to say good-bye in those cases, and asked if he would like to be able to say good-bye to Snow. He tearfully said yes. Once I had the other kids in bed, Snuggle Puppy and I went downstairs together and said good-bye to his hamster. It was hard. For him, it was hard to do it and to allow himself feel the emotions. For me, it was hard to see him go through it and to not to be able to take away his pain. He said good-bye to Snow. He wailed. I said good-bye to Snow. He clung to me. We prayed together. We talked.
I know that my little boy is going to grieve this loss deeply. He will grieve it deeply because it is not just about the hamster. This loss will bring forward the loss of his first dad, the loss of his first mom, the loss of his older brother, the loss of his dogs, the loss of his first home, the loss of his first language, the loss of his home country. But this time, he had the chance to say good-bye and that is a gift. He will have closure. I am grateful.