My life and family

Mourning the Loss of the Family Pet


We lost our beloved Mackey, our family pet yesterday. He was part of our life for about 11 years and our kids are particularly saddened by his sudden passing.


Mackey’s real name was Mackinac, named for the island in Michigan where Kara and I got engaged. Before our kids were born, Mackey thought HE was the kid, and that never changed. When we started to stock up on baby items for the impending birth of our first child, Mackey seemed to think they were for him. We’re talking the crib, toys, even a swing.


He was always near our children, and they couldn’t get enough of their spotted and striped friend. Mackey was hugged, tackled, pulled, read to and dressed up, and he never seemed to mind it. We figured if he didn’t like it, he would have left the room and found a place to hide, as cats can easily do. This cat also had a tough, predatory side, that kept our house free of any critters. Read about that here:


The tough thing about Mackey’s passing was telling our son and daughter. We were honest about it, and they took this traumatic news as expected: they were bawling. After plenty of tears, Helena told us it was time to plan a funeral, including a trip to A.C. Petersen’s for ice cream to “celebrate Mackey’s life” as she put it. She also wants to tie some tuna to a balloon and send it to heaven.

Losing pets is a part of a life, and I remember when our cat Leo died when I was about 7 and my brother 5. We were devastated and I also recall asking lots of questions about how he met his demise. My mother told us he was hit by a car, so my brother and I insisted on knowing where, when and how, and we sought to blame someone. Must have been the reporter in me.


Years later my mother rid herself of years of undeserved guilt and told us the real story. Leo died in the engine of the car. He had gone there for warmth, and when my mother started the car, with my brother and me in the back seat, he was killed. We were oblivious and later when my parents told us the bad news, they apparently felt that truth was too painful for young children. Now that I am in their shoes, I can’t say I blame them.

Also read about this other chapter in my parenting:

31 replies »

  1. I can completely understand the loss of a pet at such a young age and as an adult. Helena sounds like an old soul. Sorry for your loss.


  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. We had animals growing up. It never failed. We either took in a stray, went to the pound or took in the pregnant dog that someone dumped off in our pool area in the middle if the night. Our pets were and are a part of our family. After my mom and I lost my dad I didn’t know how we would make it. I had work and kept the happy and wonderful thoughts of my childhood with me. My mom and dad had retired a yr earlier when the sold their bakery. Mom had Brianna. She was a shaggy girl they saved from a neighbors abuse. Brianna went blind and deaf but would find you and sit right in front of you and put her head in your knees. She was the best girl. Then a year later Brianna passed. My mom was devastated and has not recovered from the losses in those few years. They are our kids. Furry and four legs.


  3. Im so sorry for the loss of your beloved Mackey.I grew up with all kinds of pets and have 2 cats now, Every passing was a trearful event.I also got a cat in my truck engine, he lived !!! lost his tail, tho. Sounds like Helena, Even at such a young age has the funeral under control.I had to tell my grand kids years ago, there hermit crabs died,All I had left were the shells. try to explanie that one, Well we had a funeral, burried the “shells” under a willow tree, sang songs, said nice thing about hermit crabs. they cried. I guess no matter the pet its tough…


  4. so sorry for your loss. Some couldn’t understand that pets are members of the family, but the truth is, they do and it just hurt as much when we lost them. Birth and dead are the part of life, Helena seems like a very reasonable young lady.
    Mackey will always know he is loved by you all and all of you, including him, carry the memories.


  5. I’m pretty sure I know how you are feeling. So sorry for you, Kara and the children. Hopefully there will be “someone” to fill the void soon.

    Kathy Valone


  6. i have a house full of kids (5) and pets (8). We are used to the loss – one awful year we lost 3 to various causes – but you never get used to it. When our 17 year old cat died of old age, we buried him with one of his favorite foods: a chocolate glazed Dunkin Munchkin. The vet also showed us how to press a pawprint into a piece of oven-hardening clay like Sculpy, so we now keep these very cherished reminders of our loved ones. The animals each also have a tiny Christmas stocking with their name and the date we got them on it, that hang with everyone’s stockings at the holidays. When the animal passes, we write the sad date on the back, and it joins the ornaments on the tree, so they are always with us.


  7. Sorry for your loss, I had to put my beloved Mikki dog down end of September and I still get choked up about it when I talk about him. He was like my “child” so I feel your pain….he will be with you & family forever in your hearts…..


  8. we lost our first dog that was both of ours but she was more mine thats be cause she was my shadow and my helper and my kid she would let me know when thunder storms were comeing half hour be for they came and she stood by me she worked with me we took here every were with us didnt leave her home only when we had to wich we didnt want to up till the day she died she was my best friend my child its been sence march 3 2006 and we still miss her very much she was 15 years and 3 month old she was a shepardlab mix that we will all ways miss but we know shes with us fallowing us every were we go and she watching over me and precting me still


  9. Our beloved pets are our friends in a very special way!!!! Will always have a special place in our hearts!!! May tears and smiles comfort you


  10. So for your loss I know what it is like to lose a pet…they become part of the family and their love is unconditional – Mackinac will be in your hearts forever and now he is in heaven watching over all of you …


  11. So sorry for your loss. He has gone over the rainbow bridge where all pets go. It is so hard to tell the children that the family pet has passed. A sweet idea to send tuna to heaven. R.I.P. Mackey


  12. Oh Dennis, Kara, Helena and Julian,I am so sorry for your loss. Only pet owners get how much they are a part of our family. Bless you all. May Mackey dance with our beloved Cody dog in heaven. Ross and Donna


  13. So sorry for your loss. I remember the loss of many pets when I was a child. So hard to explain it to children. RIP Mackey……..


  14. I too have lost pets and it is very devastating. I am so sorry for your loss. He will always be in your hearts and never forgotten. i will keep your family in my prayers.


  15. Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
    So sorry for the loss of someone so special


  16. Sorry about your Kitty…they become members of the family…they take up space in our hearts…and when we lose them, they leave holes that never quite fill up. You sound like nice people, I am sure your Mackey was well loved and you could do no better than that for any animal. I hope time helps you and your family to feel better.


  17. What a lovely tribute! Our pets really are like our children. What a hole this will leave in your lives.


  18. My sympathy on the loss of your beloved, Mackinac. Being a cat owner my whole life, I’ve shed many a tear saying goodbye to my furry loved ones. Yours seemed loving and I adore the picture of your daughter on the couch cuddling with him. Those pictures will mean so much in the years to come.


  19. Sorry for your loss of your cat , it’s never easy .We lost our family dog and we all miss Hope everyday . We’re thinking of all of you in this difficult time .


  20. Dennis & family…I have had a lifetime of pets. Each in their own way have left a mark of Sunshine days and Starry nights. Your Mack will forever have a very special place you all will hold within your heart. For each one of you there will be one special memory he shared only with you. I have a journal that I keep for just such memories. I also have a photo in the journal to remind me of that special little face and the love they had for me, even though a few of them headed for the hills when they saw the camera coming. Others went into their”favorite pose mode” and readied themselves for a full blown “photo shoot”!

    Pets will be in your life always as you are a wonderful loving family with extra love and special care for the Wee lost souls who need a forever home. Mack will always be with you in a very special place under each of your hearts.

    A special blessing for all of you , for the love and happiness you gave to him the eleven years he was your family member. Dusharsully@aol. . aka Sharyn H Wetmore


  21. As a cat owner of 10 cats at the moment. I have had to say goodbye to 3 of my cats in the last 2 years and I know how you are feeling. It is hard and you never will forget them. Just remember they live in your heart now. May the memories of your beloved cat ease your pain. He is up there in heaven waiting at Rainbow Bridge for you to join him someday.


  22. So sorry for your loss. We lost our 15 year old cat, Buddy in August. Two years ago we lost our golden retriever, Chelsea. It is like losing a family member.


  23. It’s never easy when a family pet passes and there are children involved. You want to be as gentle and honest as you can so you don’t ‘scar’ them in any way mentally for time down the road.
    I had a goldfish named Herbie, who was 8 yrs. old and about 5 inches long. He was wonderful! The kids could stand on a stool, open the top of the tank, and ‘pet’ Herbie along his sides. Herbie loved this!
    I came home from getting groceries one day, went to wash my hands in the bathroom sink, and there lay Herbie, dead in a dry sink. My natural reaction was to shreak, and then the kids came running, and I had to say something, but didn’t want to traumatize them. My heart was broken, but I had to be gentle and instantly calm down. I knew the kids had a huge part in this. I didn’t want to make them feel guilty, but they had to know that whatever happened could have been different if they had asked for mommy or daddy’s help.
    Come to find out, they had put a bunch of hot wheel and match box cars in the tank for Herbie to ‘play’ with, then thought mommy might be upset, so they decided to clean the tank out and put Herbie in the bathroom sink for safe keeping.
    We talked about what they could have done differently, we all had tears together over Herbie, and then buried him in a little box that had kisses on top!
    The kids walked away from the ‘funeral’ saying, “Next time, mommy cleans the tank with us.” We let a little time go by before getting new fish.
    Thank you for sharing your loss with us. I hope it helps you get through losing your beloved Mackey. Love and hugs to all of you. I hope you’ll find another furry friend to help fill the void.


  24. oh how I remember the look on my 6 year old daughter’s face when I had to come home with her dog’s collar but without the dog that had been her best friend for her entire life…. I’m sorry that your kids had to experience this 😦


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