The loss of a family pet is often a child’s first experience of death, and and it can be crushing. So when her family’s beloved beagle died, mum Mary Westbrook devised a special ritual to help three-year-old son Luke cope with his grief.
For months after Moe’s death in April, Ms Westbrook and Luke would sit down every night to write messages to him. They addressed the envelopes to “Doggie Heaven, Cloud 1”.
They posted each letter in their mailbox “because you can’t fool a three-year-old”, Ms Westbrook writes in Distinction magazine. She usually fished the letter back out later in the day, but one day forgot to collect it. She figured it would be thrown out by postal workers.
So imagine her surprise when, a couple of weeks later, the family received an unstamped note in the mail from “Moe”. “I’m in doggie heaven,” the note says. “I play all day. I am happy. Thank you 4 being my friend. I wuv you Luke.”
Ms Westbrook says she was amazed by the gesture, as Moe had been a much-loved member of her family for 13 years. “I still miss him every day,” the mum from Virginia, US, writes. “Receiving the note reminded me of the goodness of people and just how big a small gesture can really be.”
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper tracked down the author of the letter after Ms Westbrook posted the note on Facebook.
It was penned by Zina Owens, a clerk at the family’s local post office, who found Luke’s crayon-covered card to Moe. “I felt it in my heart,” she says. “Here was a child who had lost his dog, and any time you love something and it goes away, it hurts.”
She tells the paper Luke’s letter carried an innocence that “made my day, so I wanted to make his. It’s just love, plain and simple”.