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Pets teach Ardelli children about Life and Death

Jerome Ardelli likes to spend his spare time in his family’s TV room in Sydney. On a good weekend, this room becomes a quiet refuge – a place where he can sit back and watch professional golfers swing their way through the world’s great links.

But this isn’t normally a quiet place. In fact, this house fairly buzzes with life. There’s a Mom, a dad, three children, a do, two cats, a guinea pig, and a tank full of fish. The human members of this family have been consistent fixtures over time … but the pets come and go.

In the Ardelli household, the death of a pet means that Jerome doesn’t get to watch all the TV golf he wants to. That’s because he is needed to direct funerals in the backyard.

“The kids decided they didn’t want the animals to go out into the garbage, or down the sewer”, says Ardelli. “And they thought it was a good idea for me to give them [the pets] some kind of a ceremony and plant them in the backyard.” Ardelli thinks the funerals may have worked out for the best, because the kids learned something from the death of their pets.

“there isn’t a big loss here”, says Ardelli, “because we had a real heart-to-heart talk about how death is just a transition into another … thing. We didn’t exactly decide what that was. But the animals are planted right by the chives and hydraulically south-west of the rhubarb.”

“My bunny Tina dies on a Good Friday”, says Camille Ardelli, who is nine and relies on memory to steer her to the graves. “Mom opened the cage to see if Tina was all right, but Tina just squiggled out,” Camille relates the obviously oft-told story. “I told Mom it wasn’t her fault that Tina died. I picked the bunny up and put her in a little box to bury her outside.

“We prayed to them when we dug them in. I prayed to them to make sure they were all right,” she adds.

“Animals are just like people”, says Camille with some conviction. “They need their own space. We thought that burying them would be a nice thing to do, to show that we care for them.”

Reverend David Tuck, a Minister for the United Church of Canada in the nearby community of Whitney Pier, nods approvingly when he hears about the Ardelli pet cemetery.

“Jesus said, ‘Unless you become like little children, you’ll never enter The Kingdom.’ There is something about that”, says Rev Tuck, who describes himself as a painter and sculptor. “Children have this capacity for living in the present. They allow themselves to be amazed.”

Back at the Ardelli household, Camille introduces me to her newest pet: a black and white guinea pig named Binky. Binky spends most of his time in a big cage on Camille’s bedroom floor. That might be just as well for Binky, because the view from Camille’s bedroom window commands a good view view of the pet cemetery.

He’d be very sad if he knew [about the cemetery]”, says Camille, as she gives Binky a reassuring pat. But it’s okay. I’ll tell him, ‘Don’t be worried. You’re healthy. I don’t think you’re going to die.’ “

By Peter Ross

Family Times – Halifax’s Own Newsmagazine for City Families

Fall 1996 Issue.

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