How to Explain

Updated on May 14, 2008
A.S. asks from Pasco, WA
5 answers

How do I explain the death of our dog to my 3 and a half year old daughter. My puppy dog that was just 5 months old got ahold of a plastic ant killer device I think on Saturday, was acting funny yesterday, and today just a couple of hours ago after I spent most of my morning trying to take care of him, died. I didn't find the ant poison thing until I went looking for it earlier this morning to find out for sure if it was that or not and yes I found one broken on the side of the house, I still don't know how he got it, I thought it was under the garbage bin and out of reach, and after finding that he was poisoned I had to wait too long for my husband to set something up with someone to take all of us to the vet's office to take care of him. My husband's aunt to came to help out said that the way he was bred could also be a reason to his death that he may not have gotten really any of the poison, so to others out there don't buy a puppy who's dad is also his brother from another litter or at least make sure of that factor. So if anyone knows how to tell a 3 year old about her best friend please let me know

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answers from Portland on

Good luck with this--we had the exact same situation--and "Elmo" died while we were out, and my daughter actually found him (ohhhh so icky). She asked me what happened to him--my friend wrapped him up in an old "baby blankey" we had, and I told her that Elmo must have been a sick puppy, and he went to heaven with God and the angels. She understood that, she didn't understand why Elmo was stil THERE (as a dead dog--SHE SAW THIS!) SO, we went to a beautiful spot, by some big eucalyptus trees, near a river in our town, and my friend helped us dig a hole, and put the blanket clad puppy into the ground. We told her that, since Elmo's angel soul is inside of him, and when he died, the angel soul went up into heaven, we had to bury him in a spot he would have loved, and know that he is watching out for us with God at his side. She accepted this (remember, she was also 3 years old) and we had a little funeral for him, said some good words about Elmo, "He was a good doggy, he was a faithful doggy, we love you Elmo", and we finished putting the dirt over him, with the baby blanket still wrapped around him.The same thing happened with pet "ratties" and little birdies we tried to rescue. Whitney was very sad, but she understood this "process" and it actually helped her understand (as much as she could) when a person we loved, had died later on. With our aquarium fishies that died, we gave them the "Royal Flush"--again with a few good words about the fish, and letting God know that we were sending him a "fishy-angel", and to take good care of him--and then I put the fish in the toilet, and off he went. Our kids were able to process all of this because the "process" was consistent, we always said "good words", always said a little prayer (once we sang-but that ended up being too long of a "funeral") and ALWAYS aked God to take care of our little pets.
All of these processes helped with CLOSURE, which is what I always thought they needed in this situation.
AGain, this is just my experience with our pets, but they worked because we didn't make death a SCARY thing, and it was always with a loving God. This is just what WE believe in, so whatever it is you believe in, would work fine.

Good luck with all of this. All of my kids JUST lost a "best friend" who is a soldier (they are all in the Army) to the war in Iraq. Although they are sad beyond belief, they knew, more or less, how to "handle it", and weren't freaked out by the actual process, like many, who hadn't had to face death of a close friend.
God bless you and your family, in the hopes that although death is tragic for the liiving, you will be able to guide your babies, in the best way for your family.
ETA: PLEEEASE, don't ever say the pet "went to sleep and never woke up" or the child will freak out and have nighmares and be afraid of themselves going to sleep and never waking up.JMO


answers from Seattle on


Be honest and tell her the truth. That the puppy got a hold of some poison and that the puppy is now in Heaven/Summerlands/Valhalla, whatever you believe.

Hope this helps,



answers from Seattle on

There's a book called Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant that shows this wonderful place that dogs go when they die. It's very sweet and just talks about how they will get to play etc. It isn't a religious heaven type book but just a sweet story. My son picked it out from the library just as a book to read but I think it might be a great book to read to your 3 year old. I'm sorry about your loss. Losing a pet is very difficult.



answers from Seattle on

I'm so sorry. Pets are so much a part of our families. Keeping it simple for your 3 1/2 yr old to understand is the best way to go. If you're not sure about the poison leave that out, but say that he was very, very sick, nothing that anyone could do because he was so sick and he died. Please don't say he went to sleep because then she'll be afraid that sleeping leads to dying. Perhaps have a little funeral for the dog.
Hope that helps. E.



answers from Richland on

I agree the truth is the best thing. Explain in a postive way.

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