Need Advice on Helping 8 Yo Deal with Death of Dog

Updated on December 29, 2010
A.G. asks from Santa Rosa, CA
16 answers

We unfortunately have to put our dog to sleep tomorrow. He is 11 and has a bone tumor that has progressed to the point where the dog can no longer walk (and at 87 pounds, both my husband and I have to carry him). We told our son yesterday we would put the dog to sleep and he is of course distraught and very angry. He blames my husband and I for wanting to put him to sleep which breaks my heart but the dog is in too much pain to let this go on. Any suggestions as to how I help our son handle this? Should I allow him to come with us to the vet tomorrow?

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So What Happened?

Thank you to everyone for your advice and support. Our vet is a good friend so he offered to come to our house to perform the euthanasia. The night before we helped our son write in his journal about all the things we loved about our dog. When the vet came he talked to our son about what the dog was going through and assured us we were doing the right thing to put the dog out of his suffering. The vet explained what he was going to do and my son said he wanted to say goodbye and then leave before it happened. He and I went to Starbucks (the only place open at 8am -- I'm sure they wondered why we sat there and cried!) until the vet had left. We are so sad but I feel good that we did not have to take the dog to the vet's office and that my son was able to say goodbye. We are having the dog cremated and then will bury his ashes in the backyard and have a small ceremony, per my son's request. We are also going to work together to create a photo album.

More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

idk if I'd let my almost-8-yo accompany me taking the dog for euthanasia.

Does your son understand the concept of death? Has he experienced a loss before in his life.

I'd avoid terms like "put to sleep" and "watching you from above" etc.

Explain that the dog is old and at the end of his life. Medicine will not help him anymore at this point. He is in pain and stress how it will not hurt him when he is euthanized and it is the kindest, most loving thing you can do for a dog you love.

He might want to write his feelings down in a letter and attach it to a balloon and release it to Heaven.

It's tough, and I'm sorry you're going through this.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

taking him to the vet is a personal decision we took our boys when we had to put our dog down so they could say goodbye of course our happened quickly and was not by " choice". Let your son say good bye in his own way and try to explain to him that the dog is in a lot of pain and why this needs to happen. Kids understand more than you think, we kept the collars with tags and leashes from our dogs that have died, (3) they are in a wooden box with a picture of each dog. There is going to be crying and silence for a few days and you house will feel oddly empty I hope it all goes well for you. Sorry for your loss

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

I was a vet tech in college and we had many families come in with their pet to be euthanized. Did you schedule time with the Vet or just allow the technicians to perform it unseen in the back? The vets I worked for always helped the parents explain how the pet is in pain and they shouldn't go on like this. We always avoided "put to sleep" or "heaven". It's a very simple, non-traumatic procedure to the pets. Most of our cliends chose cremation and the box with your dogs ashes would be returned in a week or two. Let him make the decision if he wants to be there, just explain what will happen and it is final. Best of luck, so sorry.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Stockton on

I too am dealing with the exact thing, we have a 4 yo lab that has cancer in her hide leg. My 9 and 12 yo daughters were with me at the vet and saw the x-rays, so they know what is happening. They were so devasted and cryed and cryed,by the time we left, the whole vet office was in tears. I have decided to let them heip my husband and me put our beloved pet to sleep. I feel like this will help them deal with her death knowing we were all there to let our dog know that we love her. Please let me know what you have decided to do, perhaps I will need to change my plans once you have experience to share. Sincerely, M.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

My kids took the recent death of our dog much better than I did.
Our dog was also in pain, Chronic Kidney failure.
We told our kids then 5 and 8, that he was very sick and in a lot of pain. They did not want him to be in pain anymore, we talked about it and they understood that it was better for him because he was in so much pain. The doctor would give him a shot that would make him go to sleep and not wake up. I'm not sure what religion you are if any but we are Christian and believe in heaven and I personally believe that pets also go to heaven. We told them that his spirit would go up to heaven and be with Rosie, their grandparents dog that had to be put down , and Sassy, my dog when I was a child. But that he would no longer be in pain and he'd be the happy Sheltie he used to be before he got very sick and he'd beable to run and play and herd all the sheep he wanted to.
They took it very well. We did not stay while they put him down.
we had him cremated.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Your son is old enough and feels a part of the dog enough that he probably needs to become 'OK' with the decision before you euthanize. yes you've already scheduled it and yes you should go through with it, but help him come to the understanding that you are not deciding if he will die - only when so that he can avoid the next few weeks/months of pain and the pain and fear he will feel while dying of the illness.

Keeping your dog with you now is only for you, a dog who can no longer walk has lost most of the reason to be a dog but will hang on for the family who loves him no matter the pain, so we often have to make the hard decisions for them and euthanasia will allow him to be surrounded by the people he loves when he passes on.

Anger is part of the grieving process so what he is feeling is normal but he might be able to heal faster if he can get past that and feel he has some control in the decision before it happens.

Having him with you is your decision based on how well you think he can handle it - if he needs to be reassured that there is no pain/fear associated with it, or he feels he is his dog and would want him with him, then it might be good for him to come along.I have watched my dogs die of natural causes and watch them be euthanized and in all cases the euthanasia was very peaceful but still heart wrenching.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

We have had two pets put down/die in the last 2 years. My girls are younger but we had to have the talk about letting our dog go becausse he was sick and in pain and when he is gone he is pain free. We also told the girls that our animals are not gone because they are always in our hearts. The hardest was this month when one of our cats unexpectedly died and the girls did not get to say good make sure to let him say good bye to his dog or it wil be worse.
Good luck....I know how hard it is!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

We told our daughter that when you love a pet very much, you have to do what's best for them and sometimes that means helping them die if they are sick and in pain. Our daughter was almost 4 at the time we lost our black lab to cancer and a few weeks later, she saw a dog that looked like Dixie and suddenly started crying and asking what the vet had done with Dixie's tail and fur. So then we actually explained cremation to her and showed her Dixie's box and she started making things for Dixie (cards, pictures, etc.) that she still puts by the box (and it's been 13 months). I would print up some pictures of your son and his dog, look at pictures together, etc.
It was one of the hardest things we went through but in hindsight, I think it really helped my daughter when we lost my Dad to cancer a few months ago to have gone through this with the dog first.
I am sorry you are going through this, but you are doing the best thing for your dog and that's so important and a good lesson for your son.
The euthanasia itself is very quick and painless so I would say your son could be there for that to pet him and hug him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I lost many pets growing up. As difficult as it was, it also helped me understand and become more comfortable with death. Our pets met their end in other situations, but we were able to say our goodbyes at a "funeral" that we would hold for the animal. Afterwards, we would be miserable for days. We'd draw pictures, cry, and mope about. But once we were through the process, we were really through it. We were able to experience the full cycle of grief. *I* would have wanted and have wanted to be there when my beloved pet was being euthanized. It gave me comfort to say goodbye and I think they received comfort as they left because they were surrounded by their "family".

I understand how difficult and personal of a situation this is. I am sure you will find the right course of action for your family. My condolences. This can't be easy for any of you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We put our dog down in March. My MIL and I went to the vet and I made the decision. My kids (8 & 3 ) were not there. We chose to not bring him home. I think now that that was a mistake. If we'd brought him home we could've had a ceremony in the backyard and the kids could visit when they needed to. Now they have nothing concrete to hold or see.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Wow! My heart goes out to all of you! When my husband and I had to put our dog down after 13 years, it broke our hearts. There, are, of course, books that you can get, but at this late hour, you probably don't have time. I would have my son go to the vet and come in and have the vet explain in very gentle terms that the dog cannot be helped, and that he/she is in horrible pain and that the best thing to do is to let him go to heaven where there will be no more pain. It will be hard, and don't worry if he remains angry - anger is a phase of mourning.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You've already gotten this answered, but I wanted to recommend a few books. LIFETIMES, by Bryan Mellonie, does a wonderful job of explaining that every living creature has a lifetime--some short, some long--and some that are cut short by disease or accidents.
JASPER'S DAY, by Marjorie Parker, is the story of the last day a family spends with their dog before having him put to sleep, doing all the things the dog had loved before becoming ill.
THE FOREVER DOG, by Bill Cochran, tells of Mike's learning to accept his dog Corky's death, when Corky was supposed to be with him forever.
UP IN HEAVEN, by Emma Chichester Clark, is told from the point of the view of the dead dog up in heaven, looking down and feeling sorry that her boy is so sad when she is so much happier.
All of them give a way to start a conversation about how all of you are feeling.
I know they're all available through the Santa Clara County Library System, and are probably available at other libraries.
Good luck--it is such a difficult time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Yes, yes, let him go and talk to the vet or vet assistant. Understanding that the Dr. is telling you that it is best is important too, it doesn't put the loss of your beloved pet on mom and dad. At 8 years old he can understand that your pet is in pain and you all are helping.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

We had to put our dog Jazzie to sleep on Christmas Eve. My 8-year-old son came to the vet to say goodbye (since the dog was hospitalized). We didn't tell him the details (that we were putting her to sleep). We said she was in pain and was dying. When it was time to put her down, I said that I wanted to spend a little more time with Jazzie and my son waited in the reception area. Later that day, I told him that Jazzie died. I think the best thing to do is to enlist the help of the Vet. Have the Vet tell your son that your dog is really suffering and that it's very hard for the dog to go on. I am so sorry for you. It is really heartbreaking.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Tell your son that when you opt to be a responsible pet owner, that means treating a pet like part of the family. It is the right thing to do to allow your beloved dog peace and rest after a very long and painful experience that no medicine or surgery will cure.

As much as you and your family will miss your dog, and the dog will miss you - it is better off for the dog to die peacefully than in constant pain. Yes, allow him to be with the dog during the euthanasia... he should be able to offer your dog love and support in his last moments, and will help with closure.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

This must be difficult to for you too, and I think your son is old enough to know that. Try to explain that this is one of the hardest things that you've tried to avoid, and ask him if he can see/tell how your dog is suffering. Explain how making the decision together will be better for all of you if the truth of the matter is that the dog is no longer enjoying the life left tot him.
If you've already tried this, sorry to have to suggest it. It's just what comes to mind from your question.
Explaining that "life" itself and our desire to hold onto those we love is not always best when the body and being we love are suffering in pain is difficult but worthwhile and I think kids of this age can come to terms with it with if their own loss and emotional pain is included in the process that leads back to what's best for the animal who is ill and what it needs most from those who love it.
Good luck. Thinking of you,

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