how do i handle the death of a pet my child is 5

Stacey - posted on 11/19/2008 ( 9 moms have responded )

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we have 3 dogs but one is getting very old and may have to be put to sleep how do i handle this with my 5yr old

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Sue - posted on 11/20/2008

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I went through this about 3 weeks ago... Our dog abby got sick fast with a tumor on her back. She was only 4 .. I had talk to all 4 of my children and they went with me the day we had to put her down.. I let them say good bye to her I had them leave when the dr gave her shot.. But I did allow them back in to say goodbye when she was gone... It was very hard alot of tears. But they know she is in heaven and when they see stars at night I have told them that its abby looking down on them telling them she is happy and will see them someday..

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Jacqui - posted on 11/20/2008

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My 6 year old son lost his hamster some time ago. We think it was old age. He was very upset and cried. But we explained to him that "Ronnie" was very old and he was in a happy place now. We let him wrap the hamster up in a small blanket and held a funeral ceremony for him in the garden. We then let him make a little cross and paint it. He put it up where we had buried his hamster. This seemed to really help him a lot. I know dogs are much bigger and I do not know whether a garden buriel would be appropriate for your family, but it's worth considering.

Angie - posted on 11/20/2008

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In the last year or so... our 4 year old experienced the death of our cat and his grandma. He knew before hand that 'oma' was sick or that the kitty was not feeling well. We explained everything very simply - 'oma was very sick and just couldn't get better. She died." He would ask questions in the months following (would she come over to his house...would she play a game with him etc). Each time we explained. Now he has started telling us about it (when we see pictures or she comes up in conversation.

Kerry - posted on 11/20/2008

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This is slightly different but if your like me dogs are part of the family, anyway my mother-in-law passed this April and I thought my daughter would be devestated as she spent a lot of time with her. Her death was unexpected even though she was in hospital & had been for a long time, my family were out shopping when we got the call so we went straight to the hospital - my partner went in with his brothers whilst I found a parking space and poundered on whether to let my daughter [who was almost 3yrs old] see her dead Nana, I decided to do it and when she saw her Nana we told her that she had gone for a long sleep, so she was at peace and in heaven, my daughter seems to have accepted this and has only asked to see her Nana twice since she passed, i agree with Alyssha be open & honest and try to prepare them it helps.

Christy - posted on 11/19/2008

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Well....When my Keeter Moose died my daughter was devastated. We handled it by telling her that he went to Doggy Heaven and would now play with fetch and other game with God and the angels. It worked for us. :)

Jaime - posted on 11/19/2008

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We went through this when our 13 year old cocker spaniel died of kidney failure. We knew the day he would be put down and took our daughter (4) with us. We did not let her go into the room with us, we had a relative with her outside, but she got to come in and say goodbye. We wrapped him in a blanket, took him home, and she helped bury him - including her throwing in one of his balls - by saying nice words etc.



She did cry, and so did I. I didn't hid anything from her, I let her see us grieve and she got to grieve. These moments, although sad, are teachable moments - about letting go, about how life does end, and about how to react to them. It is our responsibility to teach our children normal, healthy reactions to sad things.



Two years ago my father died suddenly - her "PawPaw". What was worse was it was 4 days after Christmas. She was 6 about to turn 7 in a week. We all grieved together as a family, and it connects you. We let her go to the memorial service (he was cremated) and see all these grown people tell stories and hear all those wonderful things about my dad. Teachable moments, important moments - a parents job! To this day we talk about and remember my dad and our Winston. Sometimes we get choked up, but she knows it is ok to show your emotions - it is ok to be sad.

Tasha - posted on 11/19/2008

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I just got the sweetest email about a little girl whose dog died and she wrote a letter to God asking him to take care of the dog - the mail carrier must have answered the letter. He sent a package with the book by Mr. Rogers called "When a Pet Dies" and a letter from "God" telling her the pet was okay. I don't know if I would write a phony letter from God, but the book might be a nice idea.

[deleted account]

I went through this recently. My oldest is five and his sister is four. Last summer (when my son was 4), there was a stray kitten that hung around the house which my son "claimed." A neighbor intentionally killed it. My husband just buried it and then told my son that the kitten wouldn't be around because someone had killed it. He wanted to dig up the kitten, etc. He really struggled with it. So, when one of our two dogs died a few weeks ago, we weren't sure how it would go. We had prepared him that it was going to happen because the dog was like 14 yrs. The morning we found the dog, we just told him the truth that the dog was old and in a lot of pain and that God let him die so that he wouldn't have to face another cold winter or be in pain any more. (They're outside dogs.) He had a good cry. Then we asked him if he wanted to help bury the dog. He helped to dig the hole and cover the dog. This did A LOT to help him have closure this time. He came in and told his sister that the dog wasn't gone and wasn't coming back. He asked me if he could do something to show how much he loved the dog and of course I said yes. He chose to get some dirt from the dog's favorite spot in the yard and put it with him. After his initial cry, he hasn't been upset at all this time, just very matter of fact. I am sure that allowing him to have closure made the biggest difference. So, I guess all that rambling to say:
1. Prepare the child ahead of time. (that the dog is going to die and why it's best for the dog)
2. Be completely honest. Children handle hard things better when they have the whole truth.
3. Give him a chance to say good bye in a way that's appropriate for his personality and your situation. Whether it's making a card for the dog or going with you to the vet or a last walk with the dog, etc.

I hope this helps. It's not easy!

Wendy - posted on 11/19/2008

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Let me tell you what my Grandfather did with his best friend when it was time to put her down. He had a picnic with her at the park. He bought her a hamburger without a bun and some ice cream. Simply he made it a beautiful day to remember. Maybe you could also rent the movie "All Dogs Go to Heaven". However, I wouldn't take my child to the vet for the procedure. When my dog and 2 cats died, each at seperate times, we held a little burial service, but the kids did not see the bodies. We set up a memorial on the dog's gravesite. He loved going fishing, I found a little statue of a man fishing with his dog in a boat, and we buried him by the lake on our property.

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