Tag Archives: death

When Pets Leave Us

Recently my family had to put down our dog. Our dear sweet girl was 16 years old, and my husband and I had raised her since she was 6 weeks old. At the time we were just two young teenagers fresh out of high school. We were dating, not anticipating that we would one day marry, create a life and family together, and have to say goodbye to the sweet dog that started our little journey in to adulthood and parenthood.

If you are a pet owner, or as my family calls it, a pet parent, you know how close you can become to your animals. Our dog was a purebred Black Labrador. During our time with her we moved out of our parent’s houses, graduated college, bought a house, got married, and had children together. But she was our first baby together. She went on vacations with us, she slept in our room, we took care to train her, play with her, and help her throughout her life. We even bred her and helped her birth 10 puppies (one of which we have raised next to her for the last decade). During this time she was also there for me while I carried my babies. She was even the one with me as I miscarried my nearly 12 week baby. When I woke up in the morning terrified and realizing what was happening as the rest of my family slept, she stayed with me and comforted me.

Our sweet girl was incredible with our children. She let them climb on her, sleep on her, dress her up, use her as their patient when they played doctor. She laid under them as they played on their swing set, always ready in case they needed her. It was incredibly hard to make the decision that she was unable to fight her disease any longer. It was hard to realize we would continue on without her. We decided early on in our marriage that when the time came to discuss death we wouldn’t shy away from the subject with our kids. So when we knew it was time to make the trip to the Vet we took the kids aside and explained that the doggy was sick, that she wasn’t getting better, and she needed our help. Our oldest was in school, but our youngest son when with us to the vet. At only two years old we knew it probably wouldn’t make the biggest impact on him, but since he spent the most time with the dog during the day we thought it was important he understand why the dog wasn’t there anymore. During the visit, we petted our girl, loved on her, and cried a lot. Our son did too. When she was finally asleep and resting our son petted her head and raised his arms and told us “Doggy gone.” We weren’t sure that he understood, but in the week since we have noticed our other dog searching for her friend, and our son pets her and tells her “doggy gone.”

When pets leave us

Sharing this with you was one of the ways I have come to terms with the fact that someone who was such a large part of my life is gone. She won’t come back. I am a grown woman, who has lost many loved ones over the years but still find myself weepy and depressed, unable to fully reconcile my emotions. My children are young, have never experienced death, and I am watching them try to deal with the loss of their best friend.

Sometimes life is hard. We read our blogs, enjoy the comedy within them, pin things on Pinterest to make our lives more fun and exciting, and live our lives not worrying about the other things. Occasionally those other things catch up with us, and this month my family has dealt with a lot of the hard and very little of the fun.

I don’t share this to depress you, but instead to remind you how short and wonderful our lives are. Hug your kids, kiss your partner, eat the pizza, and dance no matter who is watching. At the end of it all who cares what everyone else is doing, after all, they are probably looking at their phones and not at you. Enjoy your life with the people and animals you love. After all, tomorrow comes very quickly.

Saying Goodbye to My Best Friend: Losing a Pet in Childhood

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We all love our pets. But children can sometimes experience a much closer love than adults do, it has something to do with dependence and eternal hope and not understanding that things are finite. Children have a fierce love, and they often love without fear. Which may be why they bond s closely with their animals, animals and children are both very innocent and they have no real understanding of the end. Yet the end is always coming. Death is something that is very hard to understand at any age, especially the death of a loved one, but understanding and coping with that as a child can be nearly impossible. That is why as parents we are here to help our children to love, learn, and grieve when tragedy strikes.

Tragedy can come at anytime, with anyone. But today let’s focus on the death of a pet. While some children understand that people get old and eventually die they do not always grasp the fact that a pet can die, especially if that pet is young. Children automatically think that if you are young nothing can ever happen to you, you are invincible. Although as parents we wish that were the case we know it is not. That is why we need to be prepared to help our children with the loss of a pet, their best friend.

Sudden death or finding a pet dead:

This is a very difficult situation. When a child happens upon a beloved pet that has passed they may not understand what has happened, especially if it was a peaceful passing. If the dog or cat has just fallen asleep and died peacefully they may appear to be just sleeping. It is when their eyes are open or there has been bodily injury that it becomes apparent to the child. It can be shocking to find the pet, but soothe your child with words that tell them the pet was in a lot of pain and is now safe, in this sleeping state they are free and do not feel the pain. If you can try taking the pet to the vet, or explain that the animal is so hurt that not even the vet could save them. Remind your child that sometimes pets don’t survive, despite best attempts to save them.

Signs of grief in children – warning signs:

As we know children can take longer to grieve, even small things like losing at checkers. When dealing with a loss this large it is important to look for signs of bigger issues.

-Acting out
-Withdrawing from friends and family
-Not eating, or eating less
-Regressing or going backwards in things like potty training or wetting the bed
-Nightmares or the inability to sleep
-Inability to be left alone

If these things are happening seek out a pet loss support group. The Humane Society can help you find one in your area.

Ways to help with the loss of a pet:

-Plan a funeral. While most people think a funeral means the loss of something it is actually the celebration of something, the life of your pet. Have everyone in your family think of a. Great time they shared with the pet. Gather some pictures, toys, and things that remind you of the pet. Put together a little box of memorial and either keep it as a memento or bury it as a way to commemorate the dogs life.

-Keep pictures of the pet around, think of happy times together. Find ways to think of the pet and not forget about them, they were important to your family, make your child understand that by keeping the pets memory alive so that they are still part of the family and always will be.

-Cry! Crying is not a baby activity. It is a way to let out emotions. It helps to wash away the pain. Remind your child that they can cry for their pet, if they loved them, cry for them.

-While some parents first instinct is to replace the pet it is often a bad choice. You do not want your child to think that they can replace someone or something they love easily. They may feel betrayed if you buy a new pet, they may feel confused. Let them make the decision to move on. Allow a time of healing, it may take days, weeks, or even months, but they will eventually start looking at other friends pets, lingering at the animal aisle at the store, or they may come right out and ask for a new pet. When this time comes sit with them and talk about how a new pet will be a new friend and that this friend will be different and will not replace their friend, but will help them to open their heart and make room for new friends.

Death is a difficult subject at any age, so remember that dealing with death for a child can be very scary and treacherous, but together we can conquer our fear and our grief.