From Maleficent to Big Hero Six: A Memoir
The movie Maleficent was released in May of 2014, but in true Hopkins’ form, we did not go to opening weekend. We waited until August after it had been released to the dollar theater. As we were driving home processing the movie and the story line in the car, it hit me; our new puppy’s name was Beasty. We had adopted him from a litter where he was the runt. Still projected to be a big guy once fully grown, he was 5 weeks old when he entered our house. We had toyed around with names and every family member had their own favorite but none of them were sticking and I knew we needed to agree on one fast.
In the movie, Maleficent nicknames the baby girl Beasty. It’s a bit of a play on words as Maleficent is a fictional creature in form and this human child a beast. She begins her relationship initially detesting the baby and wishing it dead by placing a curse on her. But after time, Maleficent’s heart softens and the little girl makes a place in her life. Much like my relationship with our new puppy, I fought it hard. I never considered myself a dog person, nor did I want more responsibility. But, eventually my kids desires and my husband’s prodding won out and the pup made his way into our home. I could relate with Maleficent’s feeling for the child in the movie and his name became Beasty.
And with that the 2014 school year began.
He schooled us. I never thought we could learn anything from a dog, but he taught us about ourselves. We found new areas of self discipline and compassion and love in our hearts. He was there for the first day of school and the first family camping trip that we took. He celebrated Christmas with us.
After a particularly normal week, Beasty woke up with his left arm paralyzed on a Saturday morning. As he limped out of his kennel, Jesse and I thought he had injured his paw. We carried him outside to his food bowl. But as the hours wore on, we noticed his fever of 106 degrees. We urgently took him into the only vet clinic open on a Saturday afternoon and hoped for the best.
We were told it was neurological. Blood tests were inconclusive and they recommended we check him in overnight for intensive care. We chose to take him home and give him the round the clock care he needed. We gave him cold baths to keep the fever at bay and kept him hydrated via syringe feedings. No one wanted to leave his side.
He withstood all of the prodding and discomfort because he was a fighter. We could tell he wasn’t done yet. We held out hope but the pain was too unbearable. Anytime he laid on his left side, he would whimper and holler. The antibiotics weren’t working and the anti-inflammatory pills would wear off within the allotted time. I even resorted to using essential oils to try and find some pain relief for him. We were trying to buy more time to find an answer.
After 2 weeks of fighting to keep him alive, we faced the reality that had been staring us in the face the whole time. The vets were perplexed and we didn’t want him to live in pain. As we said goodbye to our 7 month old puppy, it was clear to me that he had made his way into all of our hearts with his unending loyalty. Ainsley made paw prints for us to remember him by and she took his collar off to keep in her room. We all drove to the vets office together on a Friday night to say goodbye. As we drove away, I had to count my kids twice to make sure we had everyone because it felt like someone was missing. We all cuddled upstairs together to watch Big Hero 6, a movie about loss and grief. It was fitting and comforting all at the same time.
They say it’s good for children to experience grief because it won’t be so foreign for them later on in life. They say that kids bounce back faster and move on quicker. I’m not sure if I agree yet. Ask me in a few years. I am learning a lot about grief and the different ways my kids express themselves. There is no right or wrong way to go about it and everyone does it differently. We will often share our memories of Beasty when they come up because they are always good ones. He gave us an adventure filled with lots of laughs and we will forever be grateful.