about seven years ago, i was working at the florist when i found chirpy our green tree frog. he must've got himself packed in with some tropical flowers from far north queensland and made it all the way down south, jumped out of the box unnoticed while the flowers were being unpacked and survived in the florist shop for who knows how long. i suspect it was a while because when i found him he looked unwell and dehydrated. i was working alone that afternoon and didn't know what else to do with him but to take him home. i couldn't do the deed of putting him out of his misery but i think i thought that the man of the house may be able to.
well, eloise at eight years old back then, took one look at him and decided we needed to keep him (she has a thing for stray animals) and gave him the name chirpy (um... frogs don't chirp they croak). the next day alistair took eloise to the pet shop and bought some crickets for chirpy to eat, a home to live in and got some advice on frogs. we looked up frogs on the internet and discovered he was a yellow thighed green tree frog. the males croak and chirpy used to croak around spring time although it has been quite a few years since we have heard his voice.
... and so we had a frog.
we tried to convince alistair's parents to take him to northern new south wales with them on one of their trips and release him back into the wild but they weren't keen. he holidayed with my florist friend and her children whenever we went away. we bought a box of crickets fortnightly for seven years. we even bought him a friend (thinking he must be lonely) but his friend squirt (tiny when we got him) grew four times the size of chirpy in no time at all and ate all the food. he only lived for six months and we suspect he died of a heart attack. chirpy sat in his tank in our kitchen for years. alone. he was never handled just looked at. sometimes we ignored him for days. he was never really any trouble although we hated cleaning the tank.
... today he died.
i watched eloise take him out to the garden and bury him under the rhubarb. i think we both shed a tear or two (me). i wasn't surprised when i went out later to find a little grave with flowers around it. we will miss chirpy's quiet presence in our home.
i told jessica that chirpy had died and showed her where he was buried and said that his spirit had gone to frog heaven. frog heaven is lovely, there are lots of other frogs and they all play games and look after each other. jess seemed very pleased with this. she added a few more flowers and skipped off.
later, as i knew it would, the topic came up again and as toddlers do, jess repeated many times what chirpy was doing, how he was playing games and the other frogs were all singing "lardy dardy da". she then proceeded to sing that frog song (what she can remember of it) for ages at the top of her voice. it was a joyous send off for chirpy.
i believe that children no matter how young they are should be told the facts about death. chirpy was probably quite old, he didn't feel well and died. we buried him and (i believe although i am not religious) that his spirit has gone to a heaven of sorts. i don't think any child benefits in cover ups about death. one day soon we will have to deal with the death of our old dog and that is going to be a lot harder than the frog so i am almost grateful for chirpy's death first.
rest in peace chirpy. we really did love you.