We lost our Maverick (Mavi) two days after Thanksgiving after almost 15 wonderful years with him. At this point, he was blind and deaf and didn’t have a lot of energy this past year, but he was loved and spent his last days sleeping and wandering around the house every now and then to find people.
Every time I questioned if it was time for him to go, he’d give me a good tail wagging while he rested, letting me know he was happy. His passing was unfortunately the right thing to do, and while the kids don’t know all the details, we’re all completely heartbroken and feeling his loss more than I thought I ever would.
I always knew it would be sad when we said goodbye, but I haven’t lost a pet since I was a kid. And while I’ve hugged friends with a good “there there, now” pat and tried to relate to their grief when they’ve lost dogs, I’ve never understood until now that losing your family dog is losing a part of your family. The pain of wanting them back to hug them one more time, to talk baby talk like we all do to our pets and tell them “You MAKE this family. You’re part of us, we love you so much” one more time is deep and recognizable.
A Great Family Dog
Mavi was the dog that my husband and I got in college. Was it a smart decision to get a dog in college? No but we did and he was perfectly imperfect. He was our “first child.” He was with us when we graduated, got married, moved several times and had kids. He was better with the kids though—definitely more patient.
Like a good dog he humbly partook in childhood play, letting the kids dress him in bonnets and capes and baby clothes and, while obviously mortified, always took one for the team—like he was telling me, “Go ahead. Finish cleaning the kitchen. I got this.” He loved them all so fiercely. I have countless memories of going in to check on a baby only to find him already there, reporting for duty. “Look, how many times do I have to tell you? I got this.”
He was feisty, kind of naughty and playful in his younger years. Mavi would grab stuffed animals especially the ones that made noise, initiating a good tug-of-war. He loved a walk around the neighborhood, even though he had to “water” every tree and—my favorite—running around the living room in a mad dash after a bath. In his older years, he fell into a nice rhythm of rest and companionship. While he could not see or hear, he never failed in finding us and letting us know that even when it was hard, even when he was tired, he was still there for us—fighting age and physical challenges to loyally serve for as long as he could.
A Sad Goodbye
I stayed up until 1 a.m. the night he died, searching Facebook for old photos, looking for all the ones with Mavi. And I realized as he showed up in the background in photos of so many events, so many milestones and holidays and memories, what a constant presence he has been in our family. The grief of his passing also represents the grief of the passing of time, the end of The Maverick Era.
This was also the first real experience of grief for my kids. In a way, Maverick has given my children one of the most cherished gifts they’ll have for life. The delicate, beautiful, deeply important subject of loss and grief that will be part of their future began with him. His loss will be the foundation, the first lesson that paved the way for the rest, and because of how we loved him and how he loved us, that lesson is beautiful.
While we’ve talked a little bit about death with our kids especially after their great grandmother passed away; they were both so young that they hardly remembered. We have addressed some of the questions of what happens after, so what do I tell them? I thought saying the right things about death would be a stressful challenge, but it hasn’t been.
I know people have a lot of different beliefs about the afterlife, whether pets go to heaven and how realistically we should approach these things with kids, but I’ve found the most important thing you can do is talk about it. I didn’t plan exactly what I was going to say, and what came out was sometimes messy, but I didn’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep me from talking about everything. It’s important to create a safe place where my kids can create their own ideas and beliefs.
It feels so good to talk about all these different ideas—to talk about what happens after death and about the fact that the spirit of love is greater than any proven law in science. We take what we know about death and add what we know about faith and love and that it lives forever and ever. All of these discussions, ideas and memories comforted us so much.
As my friends told me the other day, “This is your opportunity to model grief for them, to show them how we celebrate and love and remember through the pain.” It’s a great privilege to take this pain together as a family and learn from it.
The house feels like something’s missing, and truly, we’ve lost a part of us that can never be replaced. I miss his quiet presence as I work alone while the kids are at school. I would do anything to feel his paws push against me one more time as I sit here on the couch.
We’ll miss you, Maverick Mitchell Connelly. You will forever and always be loved by us.
Babies & Toddlers
In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!