C.M. asks from Saint Charles, MO on February 25, 2011
Telling the Kids About Having to Have Our Dog Put to Sleep
Our wonderful dog whom my husband and I got together 12 years ago has been diagnosed with stomach tumors that are inoperable. We have no choice but to have her put to sleep. It is hard enough on my husband and I but we don't have any idea how to tell our girls - ages 2 and 5 years old. They know that Kita has been sick and they are sad about that. I just don't know how to tell them that they won't ever see her again.
A.P. answers from Kansas City on February 25, 2011
We dealt with the unexpected death of our 5 year old dog a couple years ago with a 3 & 5 year old.
We read Dog Heaven and it really helped.
1 mom found this helpful
C.A. answers from San Francisco on February 25, 2011
There is a good children's book called Ten Good Things about Barney. I believe it is about a dog that died.
As a child, my parents had to put to sleep two German Shephards that were part of my early life.(they attacked the postman) Though I loved them dearly, I don't remember being traumatized because my parents told me that they were going to live on a big farm that would be a wonderful place for them to run around on. Though I don't think lying to your kids is good, in this case, it was the 'right' thing for my parents to do for me.
1 mom found this helpful
L.B. answers from Biloxi on February 26, 2011
I had to have my special cat, Orphy, euthanized when my son was 3.5. This was the cat that was at my side, and his, from the moment I brought him home from the hospital. He had been sick for awhile, my son knew that, as he came with me to the weekly vet appointments for treatment.
So we talked about it and I told him that is was time for Orphy to go to kitty heaven and that the vets would help him do that and release him from his pain. He went with me and Orphy to the Vets, but opted to stay in the arms of his favorite vet tech during the procedure. She told me later that while she was holding him he whispered "By By Orphy, I love you".
We talked often about Orphy in the ensuing month and years - we still have a house full of pets and, since Orphy's passing, have had to euthanize his companion cat, Euridice, and bury a hamster. Now at 14 years old he realizes that humans outlive pets and that our duty to them while they are with us is to provide a good life and love for them while we are graced with their presence.
I never used the term "put to sleep" - that implies all kinds of scary images for children. Like, they might go to sleep and not wake up. Always use the term euthanized and always be open for discussion about their sorrow, fears for their pet, and the wonderful memories that they have of their pet.
Make sure they have a chance to say good bye and expect them to mourn her loss, just like you and your husband will mourn.
1 mom found this helpful
M.M. answers from Columbus on February 25, 2011
I agree that it's a good idea to be honest w/ them but maybe w/o explaining the process. It's always helped my son when we say he/she will be in heaven and won't be suffering anymore. They can run and play and eat dog bones all day... whatever you want! My son also loved the movie All Dogs go to Heaven. It's a silly movie but it helped him develop his own concept about heaven (at least for dogs) and it made him realize that they're not really gone forever or they're watching over you.
Also, I work at a vet clinic and can tell you that I've only seen kids be present for that procedure 1-2 times ever. I'm not sure if it's something you're considering. We lost 2 dogs at once when I was young and I made the mistake of peeking at them (dead) and it gave me nightmares. It's a very peaceful/easy procedure... I just don't know if kids should be present. Just thought I'd throw that 2 cents in there! Good luck and I'm so sorry for your family in this situation. It's so heartbreaking!
C.S. answers from Kansas City on February 26, 2011
I had to put my boxer to sleep, he was very old and I knew it was coming. I gave my daughter time to adjust...How long does you dog have, is he suffering? My daughter was 3 at the time and we had talked about death often. My mother died and so I often talk about my mommy living in heaven. I was very up front with her. I had to have him put down in the middle of the night (just because it happened that way) but I told her that soon Bailey would have to go to heaven and I was very up front with why. He was old and his body was hurting him and god (we are not Christians, not that that mattters) and I didn't want him to suffer. That soon Bailey wouldn't be with us anymore, and that we would all miss him, but that she wouldn't want him to be in pain. I told her all nice things about how happy he would be and that he would miss us too but that he would have a telescope up there and that any time he could, he could see us (and who knows...maybe he does ;) That he would get all kinds of good treats and that some day we would all be together again. She was sad for a little while after the day he left us, and she still talks about him, but she is ok with it. They were VERY close. A few weeks later, we were coming out of Sam's and we saw a BEAUTIFUL sunset, and she said to me (and our friend) "Look, that is where Bailey is and he is letting us know he is up there with God" It makes me cry even know, and it has been over a year. Death is sad, but I am sure it is not the end. Let your girls know that death is normal, and it happens to everyone. Let them know that it is okay to be sad. I would highly recommend NOT getting another pet. I have friends who do this and it is not a solution. You are only teaching your children that life is replaceable. Another pet will not fill the void that may be left and it is better to wait, even if they ask for another dog right away. MHO, wait until they are older. Good Luck, and I am sorry for your loss
R.M. answers from Cumberland on February 25, 2011
I don't know if I would use to term "put to sleep". That could be confusing and scary. They may confuse being put to sleep with being put to bed to sleep. And a shot to do so may be frightening to them the next time they have to get a shot. You probably don't want to say that the doctor is unable to help Kita-that could be disconcerting, as well. Maybe just say-she was very, very sick and -like you said-they will never see her again. Is it possible-soon-to get another dog? I don't mean to diminish how much you love your dog-I am a dog lover and owner-but it might help:(
J.J. answers from Milwaukee on February 25, 2011
Tell them that she is sick and you can't keep her. They don't have to know about the procedure at their ages unless you choose to tell them. We had to put one of our dogs down 3 years ago and luckily the youngest didn't really know too much other than that he was sick but the older ones hugged him and cried and said good bye. My husband and I were crying a lot and we called over family members to say their last good byes. Good luck. When our next dog goes it's going to be very hard on our son. He's only five so he's growing up right along with the dog whose 3. heck he cried when we talked about getting rid of our up north vehicle because of the memories. We did it without him being there and told him a few days later that we had to get rid of it because it was getting too old (the truck not the dog) and he was ok with it. I wish you luck and sorry about your dog. We had a little footprint of his made that we saved from the vet right before he passed.
E.P. answers from New York on February 25, 2011
We had a similar situation when our daughter was about 6. She knew our dog was old and sick. For a while, we talked about the fact that dogs don't live as long as people do and that he may die soon. My husband took him to be put to sleep. When they left, we made sure to say goodbye. Only my husband and I knew about the dog being put to sleep. We told my daughter the dog needed to go to the hospital for dogs. The next day, we told her he had died. She was prepared about this ahead of time and death has always been an open discussion for us. It wasn't until she was much older that we told her the truth and how sometimes its the best thing for the dog because they are suffering. She understands the difference between dogs and people.
I would NOT tell your children that the dog is being put to sleep. They are too young to understand that. Give them a chance to say goodbye first. Best of luck to you and I'm so sorry for all of you.