"This is the worst day of my life," my youngest daughter said after hearing the news that her dog had died.
Huge crocodile tears rolled down her puffy pink cheeks onto her peace sign adorned pajamas. "I just want her back!" she screamed as she buried her head and sobbed on my shoulder.
My older daughter cried quietly on the bed next to us. Unlike her little sister, she knew the dog was sick. As Maggie our Sheltie had advanced in age, she had been having seizures that were progressively getting worse. The previous evening we were getting ready for bed, we couldn't find 14-year-old Maggie. This was unusual for a dog who was usually either following us around house or sleeping on a piece of furniture we had long since stopped shooing her away from as her health declined. My husband and older daughter grabbed flashlights and ran outside to search. Just as they entered the backyard, I heard the splash.
"She's in the creek," I yelled. Quickly, the beams of the flashlights which had been like fireflies darting aimlessly around in circles were now focused on the small dog struggling to keep her head above the rushing water. I grabbed my mud boots and ran down the hill. Uncharacteristically, without thinking about snakes and other possible creatures lurking in the stream, I jumped in and scooped Maggie out holding her wet shaking body against me. We brought her inside, wrapped her in blankets and laid her on her soft dog bed. The glassy look in her eyes and the stiffness of her limbs told me what I already knew - it was just a matter of time.
This is the second dog that my children have had to say goodbye to. In many ways, as hard as it is, it is a lesson that they will have to experience many times throughout their lives. They will lose people they love. And while the pain of losing a loved one may never get any easier, at least they may gain a better understanding that there is light on the other side of the long dark tunnel that grief takes us through.
They are already talking about what kind of a dog they would like to get next, but with a clear acknowledgement that Maggie will never be forgotten.
"Mommy, do you think Maggie is having fun in Dog Heaven?" my little one asked me the other day.
"I'm sure she is, Baby," I said honestly.
Amanda is the mom of two and reporter for WRAL-TV. She's the author of several books including one on motherhood called "Smotherhood." Find her here every Monday.