Explaining a Pet Loss

Updated on May 05, 2008
A.J. asks from Dallas, TX
4 answers

We have a 2 1/2 year old girl and a 7 month old boy. We had to put our beautiful labrador down yesterday due to bad health. Our 2 1/2 year old is very smart and very sensitive. We don't want to scare her that if she gets sick and goes to the doctor she won't come home etc. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to explain this to her without scaring her?

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answers from Dallas on

We've been through this starting when our dd was 5 (she is now 13) . We were truthful that Maggie was very sick and the Dr. did his best to save her but could not. We have her ashes on the mantle.

When Frankie died, dd was much older and it hit her harder. She has written about it in several writing projects at school. She does know that the Dr. could not save him and he too was very sick. His ashes sit with Maggie on our mantle with a picture of them.

We have 3 dogs now and it never gets easier. We are animal lovers.

I did use a book from the library about Doggy Heaven which helped.

I am sorry for your loss. In neither instance did we say that the dogs were "put to sleep" or anything like that. We explained the life cycle and that death is a part of it.




answers from Dallas on

We have had to deal with the loss of a pet and family memebers. Our 6 year old DD is very sensitive as well as her siblings. We had to take our dog out of the house in the middle of the night and she saw us and heard his pain. We had a shepherd and his hips failed in the middle of night and he couldn't walk. We told her the truth that he was sick and he was going to the Doctor. The next morning she asked where he was. I (my DH had gone to work) explained to her that we each have our turns. The Doggie Doctor did everything he could to help him, but God whispered in our ears that it was Shuggy's (our dog) turn. So Daddy hugged Shuggy and the doctor gave him some medicine so he wouldn't cry because he hurt so much and he went to sleep and God came and took him to Doggy heaven. He could chase all the squirrels, birds, and cats (oh how he hated cats!) he wanted. When he ran he wouldn't hurt anymore. But the best part is we now have a Gaurdian Watchdog. Shuggy is always watching over us and his brother Tank (We also have a lab who is getting up in age too). Of course she worried that if we got sick it would be our turn and I explained to her that dogs don't live as long as mommies and daddies. We never knew when our turn would be, but I had a good feeling that we would be around for a really long time. When she hears of us going to the Dr we assure her that we are fine, it's just a check up. It's been almost a year now and she still wonders and asks questions. My DH and I find ourselves still looking for him in the house and a couple of times have called his name when we call Tank inside. Shuggy was our first child-we had him for 11 years. They become part of the family. Your daughter probably senses your sadness too. It's only natural.

As an animal lover I am very sorry for your loss. Good luck in helping your daughter.




answers from Dallas on

We've had to go through this as well. I'm still scrathing my head as to how to deal with this. My only suggestion, from personal experience, is to not assume that they don't notice. Our dog was hit by a car when he was about 2 1/2. We really didn't discuss it with him directly, but found out soon enough that he knew what was going on. When our cat died several months later, we made a point of sitting down with him and telling him what happened to her (in very simple simple terms). His response was much better. I know there are books out there for little ones that deal with death and pets. I've read to not tell them that the pet is just "sleeping" or some other fib we adults make up. Death, unfortunately, is a normal part of life just as much as birth. I think how you communicate this also should reflect your values and beliefs, whatever they are. Sorry I'm not much help. :)

Sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. I know how upsetting that can be.



answers from Dallas on

Well, as athe old saying goes, honesty really is the best policy. I would just say that the dog had a disease (not just sick like they hear so often) that made his body not work well anymore, and that he died. I dont think she would understand that the dog was put to sleep, so I would make it more natural, that he passed away. Maybe you could tell her that his heart did not work anymore, or some other part of his body based on the sickness. I really would not even mention the doctor or being sick, because you are right, you dont want to create that fear in her. So, really, just tell her that he died. Let her know that she is allowed to be sad, and that you are too, but that you will all be ok. Ask her questions, or let her asd you questions, base on her abilities to understand. Maybe get her a stuffed animal that she can have when she is sad and misses him, and maybe even ask her if you can hold it sometimes too, so that she sees that you are sad, but still alright. Just a few ideas. I am sorry for your loss, I am sure it is a difficult situation!! ~A.~

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