About four years ago we were driving to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. My two sisters and I were squished in the backseat, and somehow the topic of my middle sister’s old guinea pig came up. The guinea pig had been a pet when my sister was twelve, and when this happened she was seventeen, so it had been a while. It’s a long story but my middle sister is kind of adopted, so she has different parents and her mother passed away five years ago. Well, my parents, my younger sister, and I all knew that her mother had released the guinea pig into the wild and to its death. Annie had released it because once the newness wore off my sister had quit taking care of it. Well, Annie had told my sister that she had taken it to a nice farm to live the rest of its life happily. When the topic came up we said something unaware that Annie never told my sister the truth.
My sister was outraged, “Mom lied to me! You mean she killed him instead?!”
“Technically a hawk or an owl probably killed him,” I added, wondering why Annie had lied.
Down at the wildlife center, we made the decision last week to euthanize one of our long term patients. She had come into the center in October of 2015, with an old beak fracture that had healed crooked leaving her tongue hanging out of her beak. After awhile she was lovingly named Duck Duck and soon became everyone’s best friend. We let her roam around the center and she would come when we called her.
We had baby duck eggs that successfully hatched, so we assigned Duck Duck the role of surrogate mother. The baby ducks are in an aquarium to acclimated both Duck Duck and the babies to each other. She was a very eager and euthanistic surrogate mom!
Over Christmas break Nelson and Duck Duck had a brief romance, they were inseparable. They would eat out of each other’s food bowls, eat each other’s poop, and even slept together. It was true love! Probably not though because animals don’t think like that, but it was still adorable! 🙂
Our veterinarian finally came to the conclusion, that we had exhausted all of our options of realigning her beak and so she made the difficult decision. It wasn’t fair to keep an animal alive that cannot feed herself without assistance.
Duck Duck was my kid’s favorite animal at the center and she was always eager to say hi to Duck Duck before any of the other animals. And of course being the friendly duck that she was, she always quacked back. I knew I had to tell my kid something to explain the disappearance of Duck Duck and I didn’t think euthanasia was an appropriate topic for a six-year-old.
My kid hanging out with Duck Duck one day at the center. Normally we do not interact with the animals but it was pretty clear that Duck Duck was already too friendly and was never going to be released, so we broke the rules and befriended and named her. I further broke the rules by allowing a kid to hang out with a ‘wild’ animal. With some animals, it’s okay to bend the rules because you know they will never be ‘wild’ again
So yesterday I lied to her, “Duck Duck went to a new home.”
Bursting into to tears, my kid responded, “Why? I didn’t get to say goodbye! I love Duck Duck!”
“It was for the best, she’s in a happier place now,” I said trying to console her and keep up with the lie.
Her mother then asked me, “Where did she go? Did she go to another center?”
Quickly thinking, “We know a lady with a farm and a nice pond.”
Then I changed the subject. Now I understand why Annie had lied. Losing a pet to a new home is hard enough to comprehend for a child without mentioning death. My kid is heartbroken that she won’t see Duck Duck again. If she knew the truth she would be devasted. Sometimes with kids, you have to lie to ease the pain, to shield them from the stark truth of real life.