How Do I Tell My Four Year Old That His Grandparent's Dog Died?

Updated on November 13, 2006
A.G. asks from Brookfield, IL
7 answers

Unfortunately my parents 16 year old dog needs to be put to sleep tomorrow...he has liver cancer and nothing can be done for him...fortunately he has been very healthy until a month ago, and then he really started to slow down, which we all attributed to him being very, very old. My son considers this dog his "best friend", and has been paling around with him since he was able to crawl...and Mugzy LOVED it and was able to play with him and keep up very well until a month ago. We last saw him about two weeks ago and he was not too bad yet, but very slowed I explained to my son that he was very, very, old and sick. So my son just sat and hugged and petted him a lot that day. My son knows that people die when they are very, very old, or when they are so sick that a doctor cannot fix them. We had to explain this to him already when he saw picutres of his other grandfather and my brother who passed away before he was born and he wanted to know who they were and why he did not see them. Also this is doubly hard for me because this dog was my brother's who passed away 12 years ago, so in my mind this was the last little piece I had left of my brother. I know it is going to break his heart, as it makes me very sad as well. My son's birthday party is this Sunday, so I don't want to tell him until after...any suggestions, cause I know I am going to cry too. Thanks for any help.

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answers from Chicago on

Dear A.,

I just wanted to let you know that it is ok for you and your child to cry. When our pet died on fathers day, my 3 1/2 year old son cried. We sat and talked and he asked questions. I was truthful in my answers. He was truthful in saying that he just felt like crying. So I held him and we cried for a couple of hours. He still talks about cat named cry baby. He even says that god is playing with him until he dies. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I am so sorry for all of your losses. I was given this poem once and I love to share it with others.

The Rainbow Bridge story
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigour; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.

The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together

.... Author unknown

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answers from Chicago on

Another great children's book in dealing with the loss of a pet is 'The Tenth Good Thing About Barney' by Judith Viorst.



answers from Chicago on

Kids are incredibly resiliant and they will surprise you. My grandfather passed away recently and my 4 year old loved her Poppy. I did not tell her when it happened, but when she started asking questions, we told her that Poppy went up to heaven. She thinks heaven is the stars, so we would go outside and she would talk to the stars and tell her Poppy she loves him. She stills tells me she misses him and wants to talk to him and I tell her she can talk to him in her dreams. Kids dont understand the idea of being sick and she did not understand that Poppy was sick and now he is in a better place, but she finds great comfort knowing he is in heaven with Jesus ( she goes to sunday school, so she semi understand the idea of Jesus.). All kids are different though, you kind of have to wait to see him reaction when he notices the Dog is gone and go from there.
I dont know if this was helpful at all.



answers from Chicago on

My daughter and I were present at my mom's, grandma'a house when her cat, Ean, got very ill and ended up dying at the vet. It was not discovered until a necropsy was performed that he had cancer of the folicles on his skin where the hair comes out. Anyhow, Anna loved this cat. He was social, loved rides in the car, loved to be held by her, would pur excessively at the slightest interaction. So, we were lucky in a sense that she was able to see his suffering. We told her he is in heaven, in a better place where he doesn't feel any pain and he gets to do all of the things he loves. We all cried over it as well. She still says to me, this morning in fact, "I miss Ean." He has been gone six months now. She will say now that she'll see him someday, "when I die." It is a terrible idea but she seems to find comfort in that. I know this is late but I am very sorry for your loss. They truly become one of the family.
Best luck to you!



answers from Chicago on

I am so sorry to hear about your parents (and your brother's) dog. A pet dying is hard on all members of the family.

There is a great book out there called "Dog Heaven"

It talks about how when dogs go to dog heaven, they are npot longer in pain, have endless amounts of treats and toys . . .

Its a VERY comforting book - even for adults. Perhaps this could help you and your son. Be honest and let him know that it is ok to be sad that Mugzy is gone, but to know that he is no longer in pain, etc.

Good Luck and I hope this helps.



answers from Chicago on

I work in rescue and as well as a Vet's office and I received this story that I often give to clients when they are trying to explain this unfortunate fact of life.
I hope it helps all of you to cope. I'm sorry for your loss.

Why Dogs Don't Live Longer Than People......

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish
Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their
little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping
for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family there
were no miracles left for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia
procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and
Lisa told me they thought it would be good for the four-year-old Shane to
observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from
the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family
surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last
time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few
minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept
Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion.

We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the
sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had
been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why."

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me.
I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. He said, "People are born so
that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all
the time and being nice, right?" The four-year-old continued, "Well, dogs
already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

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