My mom texted me at the end of October saying that she wanted me to come home for dinner (a mere 20 minute drive) to talk about Buddy. Sometimes, you just know when someone wants to talk about something bad — a lack of emotion, a stilted wording, that sort of thing.
We were going to put Buddy, my wonderful puppy and companion for 12 years, down.
Maybe it’s my strategic communication mind going, but my mom ran the perfect crisis plan.
- Notified the largest stakeholders (my stepdad, Paul, and I) of the plan in person so any questions could be answered.
- Informed us immediately when Buddy’s health worsened, painfully moved up the euthanasia date, and coordinated all of our schedules so that we could be there.
- Updated me on all of Buddy’s ups, downs, and the adorable and unheard of 15 minutes where he licked Paul’s face in unabashed affection. (The last one may have included a video that I re-watch).
- Made sure I was feeling all right throughout the whole thing even though she was feeling like the bearer of death and had her on grief for the little guy.
Logically, for all of this, she reached out to the nuclear family: Paul and me.
What I forgot to take into account was that my family on my dad’s side and close friends who love the chubby little guy have also known him for years. And those contacts are more on me; I’m the one who talks to them on a regular basis. I know that some were less attached to Buddy, but it’s almost like a courtesy, if you will, to let people know really big news in your life. When people don’t tell their big news, I can’t celebrate with them. I can’t comfort them. I can’t be their friend because I have no idea what’s going on.
What I did instead of informing people was immediately tell my boyfriend and cry on him for three nights, tell my roommate due to proximity, and have a very botched up announcement of it to my friend. It went something like this:
Myself: Would you like to come over to dinner?
Friend: I can’t; I already told my mom I would go home with her.
Myself: Okay, that’s fine.
[Ten minutes later as she and her mom are literally walking to the car]
Um, can I talk to you for a second? [Bursts into tears]
It was all pretty swell.
It’s just so hard to have something crappy come up in conversation, you know?
Social media can be an easy way out for that announcement, and it’s a way for you to share favorite memories and legacies. Problem: I’m really private on social media. I’m really private with my friends.
I guess the point of all this is that when life threw us some crap, my mom and Paul handled it in a way that looked out for me. Sure, the network I had to inform about Buddy had less immediacy, but gee… Maybe my dad, who knew Buddy from when he was a puppy, would have liked to see him once more. He found out the morning of.
I know my dog’s death isn’t a big crisis for the world, obviously, but it showed me that communication is a courtesy that lets people be close to each other. And it’s something I need to get better at.