"Take a bite, Sweetie. I don't want you to be late for school," I prodded.
Like me, Katie is not a morning person. It's a struggle to get her to eat first thing in the morning. I suspected nothing.
"I feel sad, Mom," Katie said, starring at her Morning Round as if it were a vat of emptiness and not her favorite breakfast, full of warm, chewy goodness like it is.
"About Earl," I said, pulling up a chair beside her.
"Yes," she said, still starring at her Morning Round.
"Yeah, me too," I sighed.
Katie looked up. I smiled at her.
"Why are you smiling?" she asked.
"Well, it's about time you're sad," I said.
Katie's eyes got big. It was obvious she hadn't expected that reply.
"Daddy and I were starting to wonder what was up with you," I explained. "It didn't seem to bother you very much when we took Earl to get euthanized yesterday."
"Yeah, but today I feel sad. The house feels empty," Katie sighed.
"Yes. It does. And it's completely normal to feel sad about our dog dying. It's going to take time for us to feel better about it. But we gave him a good life." I patted Katie's hand. "And you know what, Punk? We gave him a good death too. There aren't too many dogs in the world lucky enough to get to die surrounded by family who love them."
Katie smiled, but her eyes still looked sad. Thank goodness.
Yesterday at the SPCA I was really starting to worry about what a freaky child we have. Katie had been a little teary while she petted Earl and told him goodbye while we were still home. But once we got to the vet clinic, she perked up. She poked around inside the office asking, "What's that?" "What does this do?" "Is this shot just for dogs?" Seemingly more interested in the gadgets in the room than her dying dog.
The worst was when the wonderfully compassionate vet asked us if any of had any questions. She meant about the procedure. She'd just finished explaining it to us. But Katie raised her hand like she was at Science Camp and asked, "Can we see his brain?"
The vet turned and looked at me as if to search for something appropriate to say, but all she could say was, "Uhhhh."
Will piped up, "No, Punkin. We don't want to see Earl's brain."
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because he's too close to us, Punk," I explained. I turned back to look at the vet, shrugged my shoulders, and said, "Sorry. She's very curious. About science especially."
"I love science!" Katie said.
The vet exhaled deeply, smiled awkwardly, and said, "Uh huh."
Later that night, after Katie was asleep in her bed, Will and I retreated to the kitchen to split a six-pack of beer.
"I can't believe how insensitive Katie was being," Will complained.
"Yeah, I know. I couldn't believe it when she asked the vet if we could see Earl's brain!" I said.
"I know, right? I guess she really loves science," Will said.
"Yeah, and I guess we really prepared her well for Earl's death. I mean, she knew it was coming and we'd said our goodbyes to him," I suggested.
"Yeah, I guess."
We left it at that, hoping Katie's fascination with dead dog brains means she has a healthy amount of curiosity and not that she has the developing brain of a sociopath.
My fears were allayed this morning, not just when Katie confessed her sadness about losing Earl to me, but when I entered the bathroom and saw that Katie had added Earl to her mural on our bathroom wall:
"I Will Allways Miss Him" by Katie Carleton, age 7