“Look — cute doggie toys. We should get them.”
“That’s a nice jacket for a dog. Why don’t we buy it for Karma?”
“There’s a picture of Karma doggie in the doctor’s office, Mom! Look. Look. Looklooklookloooook!!”
“Mommy! You have to buy that dog food for Karma. You should put it in the cart!” Big Boy shouts as the bag of Mainstay floats by on the way to the Pringles. Everywhere Princess and Big Boy go lately, they are on the lookout for stuff for our dog. Food, toys, accessories. They spy photos that look just like her, and little rubber boots to keep the salt off her toes. I dread the Hartz section of Safeway, and all the requests for squeaky toys and flea collars.
There’s just one problem with all this. The dog is dead. Like over two-and-a-half-years dead. Like dead when Big Boy was only two months old. Our faithful, dopey Springer Spaniel was a great pet, super with children and a devoted companion. But years of ear infections and allergies wore her down, and now she is taking her eternal afternoon nap in the great beyond. If I could only explain this properly to my children…
“Um..Yeah…Honey, Karma went to heaven, remember?”
“Yeah. That’s okay!” He pipes. “We can send it to her.”
Now, I’m flummoxed. How do you explain to a 3 year old that heaven includes a meal plan? Oh, wait — I’ll let the 5 year old do it.
“You don’t need food in heaven. They give you lots of dog treats,” Princess states like this is common knowledge to everyone in their pre-Kindergarten year. I start to relax and add something to the cart out of Baby’s reach. Crisis avoided — or not.
“You know when you go to heaven, you can see Karma. But I’ll go to heaven first. No wait.” She scrunches her face and looks at the ceiling. “First Auntie D. will go, then Mom–”
“–And then Biscuit!” Big Boy injects to make sure that Auntie D.’s Yorkie is not left out of the Big Dog Park in the Sky.
“Right.” She points her finger at him in accord. ” Auntie D. Biscuit. Mom. Me. And you.”
Standing in front of the Miss. Vickie’s I realize that the sole determiner of mortality for my children is a) have we seen you with a dog lately, or b) are you currently in front of our faces. If neither of these conditions apply, it seems that you’re going to live forever. Forget the vitamins, healthy eating and all those laps at the pool — just plan your route to a drop off at the SPCA well away from us, and you are making it to at least 150!
This is my life: one long theological debate with children. If God can do everything, can He do something bad? It’s not okay to hit, unless the person’s evil, right? So, what if we hit them before they do something bad, and then we would be making them good? And isn’t’ that good? Why did God make mosquitos who are so ugly? And bite me? Why?
Usually, I answer these questions, and try to help little, forming minds tackle the tough stuff in a way they can handle. But this Doggie Death March is just too much, even for me. “When’s Auntie A. going to heaven, Mom? Is it soon?”
Big Boy stares at me, all smiles and wide-eye innocence, waiting for an answer.
“You know what Karma told me? That she wants you to stop talking about this and pick out chips. Who wants treats?”
The crinkling cellophane chorus drowns out the nagging voice in my head that I am a terrible, terrible Mother, whose kids will be 16 and wondering why their departed relatives aren’t getting their postcards. I’ll just tell them the truth: Mail delivery is really spotty to the Pearly Gates.