The passing of a pet helped this dad process death with his children

The Passing of a 'Prince' Helped This Dad Process Death with his Kids

Guilt. I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever really and truly felt it, until now. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done… multiply that times three and you see how important it is for me to maintain consistency, routines, health, and hygiene, not to mention all the other curve balls life throws at me. 

And all the while, my little man was there. Watching me. Loving me. And growing with me. Every step of our journey, our Prince was there. 

Erik and Husband with their daughter and dog, Prince
He was my first dog after I decided to grow up. And he was there. To witness it all; the good, the bad and the ugly. And believe me, there were definitely some ugly moments. 

I watched him grow from the size of a twinkie to the size of a butternut squash. Witnessing the beauty as his coat turned, while each year faded into the next — a stretch of brown fading into silver. Not only did I witness him turn into that gentle and sweet old man, but he witnessed me finally brighten into one. 

Teaching those first lessons of schedules, priorities and patience grew me into the papa who I am today. And I will always be grateful for that. 

My bubbie witnessed me straighten my life up, quit smoking, regain control of my health, and focus on my relationship with my husband.  He was able to see my dreams of home-owning, marriage, babies, medical school. Our Prince was there for all of it. 


He was even able to go with us on our first family RV excursion through the snow-covered smokies. He was there holding it down with us for our final evacuation trip to Memphis. I knew of his declining health, so I adamantly brought him to our chosen haven to wait out the storm. We even paid extra to do so. I was terrified of him coming with us to our next spot in Florida because I knew they were strictly no pets allowed. 

So we chose to board him for 5 days. Two days before we were to leave, I received the call telling me he had passed through the night. Just like that. Gone. I cannot help but replay those fast minutes as we tried to make our way to the next stop for our family of 5. He hopped his little paws on the side of the kennel with his ears raised at attention, as if he were asking me where I was going? Just wondering why his papa just walked away. 

Tears are falling down my cheeks at the gym and I do not care. Guilt is hard. And sometimes, it’s forever. As I am sure it will be. My bubbie knows papa loved him more than any dog in the whole wide world. But today, papa has to worry about his children. Storms are hard enough to deal with, much less dealing with pets, and everything else.

The life he had was adored. By all of us. 
If I had to do it over again, there is nothing more I could have done. We always try to find pet-friendly situations when we can. And this time, it proved too much. 
But the life he lived and lives he impacted will live in our hearts forever. 
You will always be our sweet Bubbie Boy.

How do you prepare your kids to say goodbye forever? It was easily the heaviest and most emotional conversation we have ever had. I probably sound like a stuck record because  I know I have said this so many times in the past, but it definitely bears repeating. I am constantly blown away by my children’s ability to understand such heavy subject matter. It is amazing to me. 

We knew our little Prince was getting weak. His little body had had enough, we just were lucky that he didn’t experience any pain or serious health complications in the end.  Our kids knew it too. 
You could see that they would be extra gentle with him. They would give him some extra kisses at night. 
Prince’s wobbliness when he would walk sparked conversations of why, and how he used to not walk like that. They were able to slightly remember Prince’s playfulness and puppy-like affection. He was always been so affectionate. Even in the end. 
I immediately remembered the movie, “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” and thought about showing it to them. But then thought, do not do that!  I need to wait until they are at least 10 to watch 
that golden nugget of a film. 
So, instead, I breezed through my own rendition of what that movie could have been about. I told them when our little bubbie crossed over the rainbow bridge that Prince and any other pet we or anyone else had would all be waiting for us when we meet them in Heaven one day. I wiped her tears as she wiped mine. 
I not only needed to talk about that but also, something that could really scar them for life: cremation. The Pet Funeral Home was going to be sending him home in a tiny urn. I knew I was going to stand up against a thousand different questions.  So to get in front of them, I said… 
“Girls, you know how in New Orleans, when a loved one dies they’re put in a mausoleum, right? 
And when there isn’t a mausoleum, then the funeral homes bury our loved ones in the ground called a—
“Grave, papa!” 
“That’s right! Now, sometimes there is no land to put a grave, and there is no mausoleum either. 
Do you know how we honor our loved ones?  Well, this is actually pretty cool, and super special.
The workers at the funeral home use a little bit of their magic for this. They turn our loved ones into…. powder!"
“Papa? Papa?”
I stopped what I was saying to hear my oldest.
“Yes, baby?” 
She whispered. “It isn’t powder.” 
“Oh really? “ I responded. 
As a matter of fact, as she could be, she looked at me and said, “No. It isn’t. It’s stardust.”
I looked at her and asked, “Baby! How did you know that!?” 
Do you see? Something so morbid, and so traumatic could also come from the most innocent places in their hearts and minds. We can talk to them, and they can turn our information into the most genuine and sweet little translation, if we just allow them to. Stardust he will always be and in each of our hearts our little Prince, he will always stay.  

Posted by Erik Alexander

Erik Alexander is a blogger, writer and creator of He is married to the love of his life, Douglas. Together 14 years, they have 3 beautiful children via adoption. Living in New Orleans, Louisiana, Erik feels that is crucially important that visibility helps normalize what “today’s parent” looks like and created his blog to help light a path for others


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