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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Chihuahua Anyone?

By Claire Jean

My stomach tightened entering the parking lot of the building in which Compassionate Friends, a national organization supporting those who have lost a child, conducts their monthly meetings. Several months passed since my son’s death to reach this point and take advantage of a friend’s advice to seek out this group.

I made one excuse after another why not to attend. It was raining; snow was in the forecast; I had to travel out of state (30 minutes); the topic that month did not seem interesting.

The excuses continued until December 2011 rolled around, and the realization that I would have to get through a second holiday season without my son.

I learned on this first night that Compassionate Friends is a safe place to talk about one’s deceased child and know that you are as close as you will ever be with the understanding of others.

The following month’s meeting was another first in the sense that I was not ushered off to a separate area for a briefing on the group’s policies and procedures but remained in the main conference room. I was eager to hear how others were coping, what brought them comfort, how they were able to get through the holidays, etc.

As I sat listening, my concentration began to wane. I was starting to feel quite cold from air blowing down from one of the vents directly over where I was seated. I looked around and noticed most were dressed warmer than I or remained wearing their coats. Next time, I would dress accordingly.

Dealing with the chilliness was trifling compared to what came next. Part way through the meeting, a woman entered carrying a rather large, unusual looking brown case. She sat down directly across the room from where I was seated, unzipped the case and out popped the heads of four Chihuahuas.

The group leader obviously took note of my puzzled expression because she immediately came over to explain that these were therapy dogs for people to hold as they spoke and listened.

Without hesitation, a handful of members headed over for a chance to hold one of these little dogs which they then would pass along for someone else to hold. I was offered a dog more than once, and refused each time.

I don’t know why I had such a reaction since I like animals but rather than comfort, I experienced discomfort. I wondered how the dogs felt being used in this way. The dog clinging to the person next to me was shivering nonstop probably from that cold air blowing down or perhaps from being shuttled from one person to another or maybe both.

I decided to do a little research the following day and this is what I found: “Most Chihuahuas don’t like cold” and “They are also extremely suspicious of people who they do not know.”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Claire Jean,

I don't know how you felt about the meeting in general because,thank God, I did not have your sad experience of losing your son. But, I think I know how you felt about the dogs.

I believe,like you, that they were used in a way that was not a consolation to you but
just another thing for you to be concerned about; and that is NOT what you needed at that time.

But, I do believe that they meant well and I suppose some of the attendees did find comfort in holding one of the little puppies.

Interesting story. I think chihuahuas do not have the personality of giving to others.I think they are nervous little animals that wish they were back in Mexico.
We had a wonderful yellow lab that made you feel better when he was just laying on the couch, waiting for you to find out he wasn't on the floor where he belonged. His job was to please others and be a friend. I think that breed and others like him are more in tune with helping others.
Glad you are reaching out as you go through the stages of grief...children are not supposed to die ahead of their parents.

What timing for this story. After those poor kids were killed in Ohio the other day, I can't tell you how I felt for the parents. Last night I dreamed my oldest died and woke up terrified. My heart goes out to you for the loss you have had. Find whatever way you need to cope.

I can't imagine how a chihuahua could be comforting. Having said that, I'm sure everyone had good intentions, just somewhat misguided. I hope you did take home some good effects from being with a peer support group. I encourage everyone I know who has suffered a terrible loss like yours to seek out support groups--it's a good move. My deepest sympathies to you.

You’re right Nancy, I did not need to witness, let along hold, a nervous little dog on such an evening.
Although it was sad for any of us to be there, my friend, knowing me so well, when told about my encounter with the dogs thought it might make a wonderful sitcom episode.

Brbrsin2—We had a yellow lab several years ago and I miss her still. They are a breed of dog that just keeps on giving.

Beth—I’ve heard story after story at this meeting; one more tragic than the other. I’m not certain if this organization will provide me with what I need to move forward, but at least it’s there for those it does help. We all need to find our own way in whatever life hands us.

Thank you for you comment.
I know the intentions were good, but, as you said, somewhat misguided--for me, at least.

Claire - I went wanted to read your writing after the wonderful comment you made on mine. As I started reading this story, I could not help but cry. I have always been terrified of experiencing the loss of a child. Bless you and I hope you have found some comfort. I sent you love and good thoughts.

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