On Sunday, we found out about the tragedy at the Pittsburgh Zoo. The story was almost too much to handle. Naturally being parents of a child that age and having been a frequent patrons of that zoo, five minutes from our home, we couldn't help but feel shock and unbelievable sadness for this family.
However, our family's story varies from some others who are outsiders grieving. Last year Max chose these dogs as his Kindergarten animal report. During a visit to the zoo, he had fallen in love with them. We visited the zoo many times to take notes, observe their behavior, and hope to catch a zookeeper in the vicinity to chat with. Max read several books and articles about these dogs. We learned that they are one of few carnivores that care for the elderly and ill in their pack. He was especially intrigued by their communication with each other while they were hunting. They use a series of clicks and other noises to convey messages to each other in order to bring down large prey. The have an unbelievable speed that allows them to exhaust extremely large prey by outrunning them. In Africa, they are feared by farmers as predators but because of their desire to chase their prey, they are typically not a concern to trapped animals. AND typically they walk among people in Africa without bothering them at all.
Our bright, sensitive son, has been quiet for a few days. His non-quiet times have been overly emotional seemingly overtired outbursts of strange behavior. Deetch and I have been watching closely wondering, if maybe, it's been about these dogs. He has been eeking out tidbits of information, hints of sadness.
"It's not their fault, that's what wild dogs do. They are carnivores."
We were so scared about this comment. What's wrong with my six year old?
"All the kids at school keep talking to me about my dogs. I keep telling them it's too sad and not appropriate to talk about"
Today I asked for prayer at Bible Study...just for my sweet son who needs to find the words to express what this situation is doing to his little sweet heart.
After school today I asked him how he was and mentioned that the kids were still talking about the dogs. I asked him how he was handling it.
He said "I feel so sad for that family. I feel guilty for loving those dogs so much. I feel like it's my fault."
Throughout talking with him, I was able to figure out that he didn't feel guilty or at fault for that little boy's tragic death but for loving them even in spite of what had happened. His lip quivered throughout the conversation and he finally was able to accept that those dogs are wild and unpredictable. Being out of the environment God had created them for made them react differently than the dogs were had studied. He seemed to have a lighter heart when he finished talking but he definitely still was thinking a lot about what had happened....
Learning about how to handle your kids and teaching your kids how to handle life is my greatest challenge. Max is on a different plane than Talia. He is a thinker while she is much more carefree. Seeing his angst and sadness about this loss was incredible. How now do I teach him about compartmentalizing things and remembering sadness but not being paralyzed by it...whew. It truly never ends. But what a joy it is to know them....