The Family Pet

October 4, 2005



This is one of the places where I unload and if you’re reading this, you have the misfortune of carrying some of the load.

Last night I killed the family pet. It wasn’t on purpose or deliberate, but it was getting dark and I couldn’t see very well. He literally jumped in front of me and he got it. It happened so fast, no suffering was involved fortunately. But I felt bad about it nonetheless, and had the grim task of disposing of the carcass.

I have not made it a major theme of this blog, but I could easily have another entire blog on autism and my oldest son, Thomas. I’m probably some place on the spectrum myself. Thomas didn’t learn to talk until he was almost 4 years old, but once he caught on, he went nuts. We now realize that he was probably reading before he was talking. He has issues with sights and sounds that other typical kids don’t have. In the early 1970’s a fellow by the name of Dr. Lovaas gave a graphic demonstration of the sensory differences between individuals with autism and more typical people. He stood behind a yound child with autism and fired a starter gun. The kid didn’t even flinch. Next he made some sort of small scratching sound and the kid burst out screaming and crying.

Thomas wasn’t and isn’t that extreme, as he has a low tolerance for loudness, hence his nervousness at the Amy Grant concert even though it was outside and not terribly loud considering we were near the front. Most of us have been to concerts where your ears are ringing hours after it is over.

But in his younger years, Thomas had an aversion to animals and animal sounds. I could give a very quiet “moo” and he would meltdown. I took him to my grandfathers when he was about 3 and Grandad had a border collie who was nothing but friendly and sweet. But Thomas cried the whole time, refusing to be in the same house as that dog. It irritated Grandad to no end that his grandson would be so scared around his sweet dog.

About a year later, the clinic where he was getting therapy had a spring festival with a small animal petting zoo and a small pony the kids could ride. I had to just about force him to pet a lamb and a bunny rabbit and when I put him on the pony he jumped right back off. He simply had no interest in any animals at all.

Until earlier this year when he adopted a small pet that more or less just hung around our house. It was the first animal that Thomas ever really bonded with. He would spend hours talking to it and trying to feed it, although he had no interest in touching it. The pet actually lived right outside our patio and was the first thing Thomas looked for all summer long whenever he went outside. And it was usually there, in the same place, as if waiting for Thomas to come and greet it.

The pet’s name was Toadie. Toadie was…take a guess. A toad. He lived underneath the splash guard under the gutter and Thomas would lift the guard and there sat Toadie. Whenever I mowed the lawn, I would move toadie to the patio or simply put him where I’d already mowed. But last night, Toadie was not in his cusomary spot when I removed the guard. I figured he was hiding around the patio somewhere. But he wasn’t. He was in thhe grass that had gotten too tall and I got him less than 2 feet from his home. Thomas had a sleepover friend who was playing in the yard at the time, but fortunately the kids never saw it. My wife did, though. Arwyn was quite apologetic and understanding about it. We both knew that this was a possibility, and Arwyn had seen me actually pick Toadie up on more than one occasion and move him to a safer spot. Something she wouldn’t necessarily do, as she wouldn’t be caught dead picking up a toad.

So I feel bad for Toadie and moreso for Thomas who lost a friend last night. We had caught him “wrestling” with another toad earlier in the summer, so maybe his girlfriend will take up residence in the vacant space.


Update: Arwyn went outside earlier this evening and looked. Sure enough, there was a toad in the usual spot. We both breathed a sigh of relief. Apparently our splash guards are considered prime real estate for the toad community.