• Rob Resnik, Matt's Dad

All Dogs Go To Heaven

By Rob Resnik, Matt's Dad

Our nine-year old Golden Retriever Mowgli died Sunday, two-plus years following his cancer diagnosis and two years later than we were told to expect. On the day prior to his passing, he was happy, enthusiastic and enjoyed a two-mile walk with Matt, Denise and me--as well as catching a few bites of the steak Matt threw at him from the dinner table.

But Sunday was a different story as his condition deteriorated rapidly the way it can with our beloved pets. We were careful what we said to Matt -- as we knew the end was near -- but wanted to use the situation as a “teaching moment” for other losses he will sustain in the future. We didn’t want to say that Mowgli was sick because we didn’t want Matt to equate being sick with death or permanently leaving our home. We really don’t know if Matt understands what death means. In fact, we have never heard him use the word. Many concepts seem to elude him and we can’t really probe his understanding because responding to questions is simply not one of the things he does well.

We couldn’t get into the vet on a Sunday so I stayed with Mowgli while Denise and Matt went to Target to get some necessary items for the week ahead. Matt loves to browse the DVDs at Target. When he was younger, his favorite trip was to the “Used Bookstore” where he would peruse the stacks of old video cassettes and would do so for as long as we let him. Eventually, we would say “pick one” and he would do so eagerly and pay with money from his wallet. 

The interesting thing is hat he had never seen many of the selected movies or even watched the tapes beyond the credits.  In a pattern that is likely familiar to many families living with autism, he would collect the same titles over and over again, and put them on a shelves in his room He had at least 10 copies each of Batman Returns and Pretty Woman and multiple copies of other popular titles from the past.  This is one of many examples of why we as parents are more like anthropologists than psychologists. We understand how our children will behave in most situations, but frequently don’t understand why.

While Denise was in the check-out line and Matt placed a new DVD in her cart, one that he had never watched or purchased before. The title: “All Dogs Go To Heaven."

Did he get it for Mowgli, for mom, dad or for himself?  We don’t know but we will all be watching it tonight.