Saturday, 4 April 2009

Head-on collision with pet/death scenario

And there I was trying to shield Renée from the inevitable pet/death scenario for as long as possible. So, pray tell me, what on earth was I doing allowing us all to watch The Grand National as though it were a prime-time episode of Fifi and the Flowertots? And not only that, but actively encouraging both of my children to become as obsessed with the race as I was quite a few years ago.

Just a little bit of background quickly - National Velvet was my favourite film. (Sorry Tara - I forgot to include that on my list for your last post). Horses were my thing. In fact my ultimate ambition was to become the first woman to win The Grand National. Or was it to actually be Elizabeth Taylor? I'm not sure. But you get the drift.

So fast forward a few years. Renée is now 4 and a half. Old enough to choose a horse, follow it through the race and get excited when it finishes fifth and beats her sister's horse which finishes 17th. Or something like that. Give or take a few places.

Instead, this is what happens...

I read out the list of 40 horses. That's 4-0 (ie quite a few). She could choose any of them. Any.

"I want 'Hear the Echo' Mummy. I like that name. It reminds me of the tunnel leading down to the seafront, where we make noises. That's an echo isn't it Mummy? Yes, I want that one."

And there it was. Out of 40 horses she had made her choice. It was as simple as that.

The choices made on behalf of Edie, absent husband and myself are irrelevant. Suffice to say we didn't bother the bookmakers one bit. Of note though, is the fact that my eldest child entered into the spirit of the race with a childish abandon even I would have been proud of 30 years ago. She looked distraught when there were not one, but two false starts. She screwed up her face when her Daddy's horse fell at the first fence (told you we didn't trouble the bookmakers). She listened intently for any mention of her horse, of which there were quite a few, seeing as it was, for the most part of the race, a leading contender. She teased her sister (and her Mummy) when our horses were pulled up (I did say). And towards the end of the race she urged her horse on, as though it was her who had taken the pains to breed it and train it.

'I think I'm going to win Mummy', she said with two fences to go.

I could almost feel her excitement. Damn why hadn't I chosen that horse for myself?

And then I heard it. And I looked at Renée. And she looked at me.

"What does it mean Mummy? Collapsed on the run-in." She asked me. For this is what had happened. After 30 fences and 4 and a half miles of jumping and racing, 'Hear the Echo', Renée's chosen horse, her friend and pet, albeit for 20 minutes, had collapsed and died just before the finish.

"What happened Mummy? What happened to my horse? What happened? Where's 'Hear the Echo'? Why didn't he finish?'

I could have cried. Actually I almost did.

'I think he's just had a heart attack darling. He died. I'm so sorry.'

She ran to her bedroom, distraught.

However much you try to shield children from the inevitable, it will happen sooner or later. At least it wasn't the cat. Although at 14 years of age, that could be just around the corner...


  1. Oh no, how awful.
    Poor horse.....that's what I hate about the national, there is usually a poor horse that doesn't make it.

  2. Oh no! You couldn't have thought of that outcome when doing a mummy risk assessment.. Little Miss has a fish that likes to lollop about upside down - countless times I've looked at the tank during tea time & thought she'd gone to heaven - prayed nobody has noticed. Hampster has done 1 out of its expected 2 1/2 years - so not far behind you!!

    Have a lovely easter!!

    Lydia xx

  3. Oh no!!! I was reading with my heart in my mouth, poor thing :( We lost two cats in quick succession last year and they both were "allocated" to a child, it's soo hard explaining and comforting. However I do think it's a good lesson in loss and knowing that the awful sick feeling will pass and you can come out the other side. Hope she' recovered slightly luv Karen x

  4. Oh poor thing. It's all important life lessons, though, of course and easier to start with pets and Grand National horses than a close relative.

  5. oh noooo!! That's awful! I would have cried for certain!
    It is a really hard to explain death to children. My sister's brother in law, her twin daughters Godfather, died in a car accident aged 32. They were just 3 and it has been a very tragic moment for them to explain that he will never come back, that he had gone to heaven, trying to explain that there is no exact reason why he died apart from the car crash, that yes everyone dies one day... My sister chose the honest attitude and decided no to waffle about it. I am not sure I would handled it the same way, but I guess you have to do what you are comfortable with...
    Very tough call...

  6. ML - yes and when I was little I was always the distraught one when a horse died. Still kept watching though...

    Lydia - yeah haven't got fish for that exact reason (that and because the cat would eat them). Maybe when the cat goes...

    MGM - Yeah it is difficult, but, like you say, a good learning experence.

    CM - Definitely - best to start them off with the small things. There will be worse things to come unfortunately...

    PHP - Oh what a horrible story. And so young... Yes, I think the honest approach is the best one (most of the time). It's easier that way. At least you don't have to keep remembering what it is you lied about...

  7. You put my heart in my mouth. And took me back to the first race my grandmother took me to...a harness race with a horrible crash at the end. 40 years later, I still remember it vividly and it still brings emotions up.

  8. I don't know what to say! Be good to the cat. That was not what you needed right now. What a difficult, unpredictable situation. I'd have told the truth I think, it's just best policy most of the time and to be honest although we was initially very upset, I expect she bounced back quite quickly? x

  9. This is so sad. I wouldn't have known what to do either, better than bursting into tears. I had a canary when I was about 5; he died and I never ever wanted another pet. I think I am still grieving...
    I just read CJ's last post - what is it with dead animals this weekend, sobbbb???

  10. Oh what bad luck. Poor you. At least you didn't make up an answer and told the truth.

  11. That is just too too awful and although one might fear the odd injury in such a big race, you don't expect your chosen filly to pop her clogs. Especially one with such a cool name. Very sad. Sniff.

    Hope Renee wasn't too traumatised (unlike me...). Like some of the above commentees (is this an actual word I wonder?), I agree that the subject of Death and Dying is probably best dealt with when relatively young - although preferably not in reference to anyone/thing close!. Partly so that it's not such a big shock when it does happen to someone dear but also because wee ones seem to take weighty topics on board without any hang ups. When my daughter first saw a graveyard (this wasn't some macabre educational outing, we just happen to pass one on the way to nursery), she wanted to know what all the gravestones meant. Now, every time we drive past, she merrily sings out, "Look Mummy! There's all the dead people". Freaks me out every time.

  12. We were in a car that hit a stray dog, when we went back to get it it was obvious that its leg was broken so we took it home and to the vets the next day, who put it down. We had to take the body so we buried it in a friends field. The boys (aged 2 and 3) were completely riveted by what happened; the whole concept of putting an animal down, putting it into the ground. That was about 8 months ago and they still talk about it often - and I've had to emphasis on a few occasions that doctors won't put people down...

    I found honesty to be the best policy, but it was difficult, particularly as I found the whole incident to be very distressing and cried for weeks.

    Like the others, I reckon that death is best approached honestly and hopefully not through people who are close. But so hard. Poor Renee, it must have been so distressing.

  13. B&B - Hello - thanks for stopping by. Yeah I remember once going to a horse race and standing right next to the fence. There was a faller and I think it must have opened an artery (not sure of the technical term), but blood was spurting everywhere. It was hideous. Definitely something I will NEVER forget.

    Reasons - Thanks. Yeah she seems ok today, although I'm sure it will come up again soon (probably next week because we're going to another horse race on Easter Monday). What am I thinking?!

    MetM - I take it the sweep didn't work? I thought you'd be busy with something else right about now! Yeah pets are tricky things for children (especially when they die). I had a rabbit who was literally eaten by maggots (bluebottles laid eggs on his bottom and eggs hatched). Was very distressing and I will definitely NEVER forget that either.

    ModM - yes it's typical of our luck at the moment. Think R is too clever to not know the truth - I'll only get found out eventually!

    HomeMum - Commentators perhaps? Not sure. Yeah I think we often think our little ones will be more upset than they really are. They are much more equipped to deal with death than we are...

    FM - Oh how horrible for you and the boys. That story is much more 'real' than mine. At least we only witnessed death on the tv screen...

  14. Oh! What were the odds that she'd pick THAT horse? (no puns intended on the "odds" thing). Poor girl. I'm ready to move my kids to a plastic bubble, seems the only safe thing to do ;-)

  15. I'm afraid this is one of the reasons why I never watch the GN. I think it's too harsh on the horses.

    CJ xx

  16. Heartbreaking! We try so hard to protect our little ones, and horses are such special creatures. I admire your honesty. Oh, and truly and glad to have found your blog! Look forward to "getting to know you" :)

  17. Ibhh - I know - unbelievable (but typical). Can I come and join you all in the plastic bubble? Who know it would be this hard??!!

    CJ - When I was little and used the watch the GN I was always so upset when horses died that each year I swore I would never watch it again. I couldn't believe how cruel it was, but then when the race came round again I just couldn't stop myself...

    MM - Thank you for stopping by - was very glad to have found yours too x

  18. Oh dear! It's the kind of thing that usually happens to us. Horse worship is something I'm actively discouraging in five year old, far, far too expensive a hobby. I tell her all horses bite, ponies even worse.

  19. MH - hmmm yes, maybe you're right. Not sure I thought of it in that way. Maybe I should get her to take up piano playing, or failing that (pianos are expensive) a little bit of knitting perhaps?

  20. That is so sad. But then that is life and they have to learn some time. We can't shelter them forever. We can try, of course, but it's going to bite us in the bum at some time.
    My son went through a phase where he was obsessed with death and would talk about it all matter of fact, which I found quite upsetting.

  21. Thanks for popping in to my blog. Grand National was avidly watched in our house, too, and daughter's horse fell (but not to such dramatic effect). We went one better and took daughter to Chester Races last year, she was most annoyed she didn't choose 6 winners!

  22. Tara - yes definitely can't shelter them - especially not in this day and age.

    WM - Thanks for visiting - yeah we're taking the girls to some races on Easter Monday. At least their Daddy will be back by then so if they suffer any more traumas I can run away and get him to deal with it!

  23. It was a reverse situation in our house. I had picked Hear the Echo ... much to the encouraging applause of my kids as the race went on and he appeared to be doing quite well. Particularly given that I'd back a non-runner the year before. (William Hill took my money nonetheless, I'm still not sure if I've forgiven them.)

    Then when HtE dropped off from any mention, I could barely watch. It was 6 year-old who told me that he'd died. And then at my crest-fallen face assured me they'd given him water and he was OK. Not sure what to feel now I know what actually happened. Who's mothering who in this household I wonder?

    Poor Renee. I hope she's not too heartbroken by the whole affair. And fingers Xed the cat's got plenty of his nine lives still safely stashed in his back pocket yet.

  24. hello, how come I've not found you before? I'm glad you popped over because now I can regularly read you and get choked up and cheered up according to what you write about you and your lovely girls.

    shame the horse died.

  25. Oh, poor girl! Hopefully she will pick a more hearty one next time :(

  26. BB - Aah how sweet of your children - shielding their Mummy from the truth - surely that's our job? Now I don't want to tempt fate here but the cat seems to be in good health...I had a friend who had a cat who lived to 19 so we could have a few years yet. Fingers crossed.

    FF - Yes I was thinking the same when I found you - glad you popped by. x

    CC - Yeah next time I'll make her choose two horses just in case!