Toy Dinosaurs Help 5-Year-Old Deal With Death

Barbara Arnold

Five-year-old Kessler Burdt, a kindergartner at Altoona Elementary School, is wild about dinosaurs. So much so that upon meeting him with his new Mohawk haircut for summer, one could almost see him take on the persona of a dinosaur, curling up his forelimbs and making piercing, screeching sounds.

Kessler has a herd of dinosaurs. He rolls their scientific names off the tip of his tongue as if they were everyday words for someone entering the first grade. There’s an Apatosaurus, a Brachiosaurus, a Diplodocus, two Stegosauruses, a Styracosaurus, and a Triceratops. The leader of the pack is a Tyrannosaurus Rex named Jeffrey, the only dinosaur Kessler has named. Jeffrey has a habit of getting into mischief, in particular with food. Jeffrey loves to eat anything from candy at Halloween to cookies at Christmas to bunny and chick PEEPS of all colors at Easter.  

Just as some families have “Elf of the Shelf” in December, the Burdt family has “Dinovember.” “That’s when my dinosaurs come alive at night when I’m sleeping,” shared Kessler. They move around to different locations in the house. When he wakes up, he has to find them in the most unusual places outside of his bedroom where they reside most of the time.

This past November was tough for Kessler. On the same day, not only did his Uncle Scott pass away from colon cancer but he also lost his one and only betta fish, Mosasaurus. Kessler didn’t find out about his fish until about a week later. During this time, his herd of dinosaurs could hear Kessler’s muffled whimpers as he cried himself to sleep, sometimes about his Uncle Scott, and other times about Mosasaurus. 

Kessler was sad about both losses. So by early December, the dinosaurs decided they had to do something. Jeffrey the T-Rex corralled the dinosaur herd, as well as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and off they went to PetSmart to find Kessler a new finned friend. Of course, the dinosaurs got into some trouble while they were there. What they didn’t know is that their actions were being photographically documented every single step of the way.

The next morning when Kessler woke up, there was a note from the dinosaurs next to a water-filled container with his new fish. He promptly named it Night Shadow. 

The Burdts are huge fans of the Star Wars movies. So as Kessler cared for his new fish, he felt at peace, knowing that his Uncle Scott and Mosasaurus were together: Although their physical bodies were gone, like Jedi masters, both were now “one with the Force.”