A Farewell to Foggy

The boys and I had been planning a trip to the zoo today, with my mom, for the past week.  It would be our last zoo trip of the summer, and so Jake was especially excited to see his favourite animal, Foggy the hippo.  When I say “favourite animal”, I mean that Jake felt that he had a special bond with Foggy, and that Foggy communicated to him via telepathic signals, ear wiggling, and honking.  Every time we visited Foggy, the hippo would inevitably wiggle his ears and honk, and Jake was convinced that it was for his benefit alone.  Some of the things Foggy would say to Jake via these messages and the telepathic communications were “Hello, friend!” and “I love you, Jake!” and “You’re my favourite person!”.  I did nothing to discourage this; after all, Jake is someone does not believe in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, and so believing that he was special to this hippo, the oldest zoo resident and also one of the oldest hippos in the world was magical indeed. 

Then yesterday, we heard the news that Foggy died.

Jake and Foggy, 2010

Jake and Foggy, 2012

You might think that the loss of a zoo animal, especially one who would be 47 in a few weeks – just two days after Jake’s own seventh birthday – would not be a huge deal.  But it really was.  I heard the news and then, thinking about our zoo trip, went to prepare Jake.

The Five Stages of Grief

Denial.  After telling Jake, he seemed unaffected at first.  He said he still wanted to visit the hippo enclosure.  It wasn’t until he saw the story on the six o’clock news that he seemed to think it was real.

Anger.  On the news, they explained that due to health complications stemming from his very advanced age (most hippos in captivity live to their mid-thirties, in the wild their lifespan is much shorter) Foggy had to be euthanized.  Have you ever tried to explain euthanasia to a child?  It didn’t go well.  “THEY KILLED FOGGY!” he yelled, punching the couch.

Bargaining.  After discovering that Foggy had fathered seven offspring, Jake felt that one of them should be brought to the zoo, at all costs.

Depression.  Predictably, around bedtime, Jake completely broke down.  “I just can’t stop being sad,” he sobbed.  “It’s okay, honey,” I said, “You can be sad as long as you want.”  The zoo trip started out all right this morning: Jake and Mark were happy showing their grandma the penguin display, the dinosaur park, and the Canadian Wilds.  Then we went to the hippo enclosure.  Jake refused to look at Sparky, the remaining hippo, and on leaving the enclosure he said that he didn’t care what animals we saw next, because no animal would ever wiggle their ears at Jake again.  He was fairly listless though the other displays, he brightened only a little when Grandma bought some soft-serve, and he was heartbreakingly uninterested in the three adorable tiger cubs we saw frolicking and playing with the mama tiger.  We watched the tigers and pointed out the cuteness while Jake looked at the ground, sadly.  “Can’t you SEE them, Jake?” my mom and I asked.  “I can see them.” he said flatly.


Acceptance.  After the tiger display, we went to the gift shop – not something we normally do on a zoo trip, but then, this was not a normal zoo trip.  Also, we had Grandma with us, and we all know how that goes (Grandma may or may not be a soft touch).

Not to be materialistic here, but the acquisition of not one but two hippos really turned things around.  Jake said “I will always remember Foggy in my heart, and now I can snuggle my own Foggy whenever I want!”


  1. Aw, man, this is QUITE a touching story! (Also, now I want a stuffed hippo.)


    I am feeling all the feelings right now. Poor little. That’s the trouble with spending your whole life visiting the same zoo; you get attached to the animals and when they die, it’s like losing a pet you never actually got to cuddle with first.

  3. Wow… *reaching for the tissue box*.

  4. Tracy White says

    Omg, Nic, amazing story again. You are such an amazing writer.

  5. “”I just can’t stop being sad,” he sobbed. “It’s okay, honey,” I said, “You can be sad as long as you want.””

    We’ve had that exact same conversation three times this week (once was between my husband & I, no kids around)(not about Foggy, but this makes me sad, too). I’m so sorry Jake lost his hippo.

    I dunno why they couldn’t sneak in another ginormous hippo & call it Foggy. Or tell us Foggy went back to Africa to be reunited with his old hippo friends. Yes, I’m advocating lying to kids. And me.

    Poor Foggy & poor Jake. *teary*

  6. I’ve actually known of quite a few stuffed hippos with nearly magical properties. Poor Jake. Mortality sucks. Also, go Grandma.

  7. Oh, poor Jake, I think you both handled it beautifully.

    (So far I’ve failed your captcha 6 times)

  8. Yay, Grandma! When K’s guinea pig had to be taken away because of her allergies, we totally bought her a Webkinz one.

  9. Aw, poor Jake. I’m sorry Froggy died. I’m glad he got a stuffed Froggy.

  10. BusyMomofTwins says

    What a beautiful post and such an amazing bond for your son. I love the idea of him having a stuffed Foggy to keep him company. Hugs.

  11. aww…. sniff. break my heart, why dontcha.

  12. ps your son has big feet!

  13. BusyMomofTwins says

    Nicole, I have given you the Liebster Award! Check out the details on my blog post:


    Happy Sunday!

  14. Oh my heart. Sweet boy and sweet story.


  1. […] take a stronger woman than me to look at those hippos and walk away, especially considering the emotional attachment to hippos around here. Poor Jake, yesterday he realized that next Tuesday would have been Foggy’s 48th birthday. […]

  2. […] been reading for a while: we visited the zoo yesterday for the first time since the tragic (for us) euthanasia of Foggy the Hippo.  There is a new hippo; his name is Ghost, courtesy of his Halloween birthday, and he is […]

  3. […] Jake’s sadness with the passing of Foggy the hippo? Well, Foggy’s grandson, now at the zoo, is the bomb. We watched the sleeping hippo […]

  4. […] changed over the years is Jake’s deep and abiding love of hippos. Remember Foggy, and how deeply we mourned him? Jake has grown to love Ghost, Foggy’s grandson, just as much. As a side note, Ghost is no […]

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