How Do Deal with 5 Year Old When Dog Has to Be Put Down

Updated on May 05, 2009
D.J. asks from Amarillo, TX
4 answers

We have an old cocker spaniel that is probably going to have to be put to sleep tomorrow. She suddenly became blind in both eyes, and seems to be in a lot of pain. My son loves this dog, and the experience will not be easy for him. My husband and I are at a loss on how to deal with this. We are not planning on telling him we put her to sleep, because that may be too confusing for a five year old. We will just let him know she died because she was old and sick. What we are really wondering is how much should we involve him in the aftermath. We are planning on burying her in the pasture. Should we have a small "funeral" that he participates in, or just bury her and let him visit the grave later? I welcome any advice.

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answers from Dallas on

First of all...I am sorry and I am sorry for the long response.

I had tears reading your post. We have Cockers and we had to put our beloved Maggie down when our daughter was 5. It was heartbreaking for hubby and me especially because Maggie was 14 and had been our first "baby". Daughter was very attached to her. We explained that Maggie had cancer and Dr.was doing everything he could to make her better. Of course we did not tell her the we put Maggie to sleep. We told her that she died at the Dr's office.

We set up a cremation with ToothAcres Pet Cemetary and a couple of days later, Maggie was returned to us in a beautiful cedar box with her name engraved on the top and a poem called the Rainbow Bridge.

Letting go of a beloved pet is a very emotional and heart wrenching thing to do. We have since lost another Cocker and a rabbit. In both cases, Toothacres has taken care of things for us and we have all of our pets here with us in pretty cedar (locked) boxes. When Easter (the bunny) died last year, Toothacrea sent him back with a silk white rose, poem and special purple velvet box. Daughter has a spot in her room for Easter because he was special to her for so long. Our Cockers are on our mantle with a picture of the 2 of them together on a happy day.

I also read the book "All Dogs go to Heaven" or something like that. I might not have to exact title correct. She loved that book and we read it often, each time we lost a pet. Since she was older when Frankie and Easter died, we were given the book Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul and we all enjoyed that book.

We are animal lovers and get very attached to our fur babies. I did not want to leave them for the city to take care of, bury in a yard where I might no longer live in years, etc. We felt better keeping them with us after cremation.

Best wishes.



answers from Dallas on

we just had to put down our 16 yo dog last week and it was really hard for me especially, she's always been "my" dog since we got her from the pound when she was 9 months so i can understand what you're going through. i read beforehand not to say "we had to put her to sleep" because the kid may start not wanting to sleep for fear of not waking up. i was also careful not to say too many times that she was old because she did make the comment "old like grandma?" and i didn't want her to start thinking grandma was going to pass away anytime soon. i wanted her buried in the backyard so my husband did that for me, there was no way i could even be around for that and i definitely didn't want my 4 year old to see it, if you chose to that's your choice obviously and do what you think is best. i told her the day after it happened (she asked where amy was before and i always said she was outside) and she was very upset, she wanted to dig her up and see her one last time so i felt bad about that. i made sure she said bye to amy before we left the final time before she was put down and she did and gave her little pats on the head. she's cried several times this past week but it's so nice knowing amy is so close that we can go out and visit her whenever we want. good luck to you.



answers from Dallas on

I say be as open and honest with him as possible. I believe a 5yo can handle something like this. My son wasn't quite 4yo when my cat died last October. We didn't bring him with us to the vet when we put her down, but we told him to say goodbye to her and when we got home we showed her to him and he helped us bury her. I think it was a very good lesson on death and he understood it as well as a 4yo could. He still talks about her, as we have a memorial plaque for her in the yard where we buried her and when he sees it he remembers. He says he's sad about it, as he should be, but never had any problems associated with it. We were very open and honest, as we always are in this family. I think it was especially good for him to see her body in the ground when we buried her, so he knows she's gone.



answers from Dallas on

I am so sorry to hear about your sweet dog. One piece of advice don't tell him that the dog was sick, he will associate mommy has a cold sick with doggy died sick and think mommy might die. My family has lost 3 of our beloved pets. My children were a little older than your son, but the one thing that helped so much, is that God always seemed to bring another rescue dog to be a part of our lives before or immediately after our loss. The house was never empty. You miss the one who is gone, but the others make it more bearable. I suggest letting your son be involved in a funeral. When I was his age my aunt took my dog, Ginger, "to the vet for a check-up". In reality they were taking Ginger in to be put down, and I never saw her again; it still upsets me and I'm 43.

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