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Talking to a 3 yr old about loss of pet?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Our beloved dog has been slowly wasting away from congestive heart failure... He has lived a LOT longer than was first predicted but looking and listening to him today I can tell we are close now.

My oldest is only a little over three and I am not sure what is the right way to approach the topic when the time comes. I am supposing something honest but simple is best... But am having a hard time thinking of just the right words.

Any advice? I want to help her understand as gently and gracefully as possible...
post #2 of 15

I'm very sorry to hear about your dog's health... my dogs are like my kids so I know how hard it can be to let go. 

 

Are you thinking of putting him to sleep? Some vets are willing to come out to your house to give them the injections. I think it would be helpful for kids to be able to watch as the dog is put to sleep at home and everyone is able to say goodbye. Then the vet can then either take them away to be cremated or you could bury him together. This would probably provide more closure.

 

I think it's also less stressful for the pet if he is put to sleep at home. 

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for responding... I didn't want to have to make the decision for him (our dog) but he is getting worse and I don't want him to suffer unneccesarily... I hadn't thought about having it done at home. That sits well with me. I like the idea that he would just go to sleep on his pillow with his squirrel stuffie. Am going to ask my vet and see if they will do that for us.
post #4 of 15

Our kitty Me Too died when my son was 3. I told him that Me Too's body had become very weak and that it stopped working, and then he died and went to heaven. (We are not religious, and I had not really planned to tell my kids there was a heaven, but it just seemed like the best thing to say.) He still didn't understand very well. While Me Too was sick he kept having to go to the hospital and sometimes would stay a day or two. After Me Too died the DS kept asking when he was going to come back from the vet. :( But eventually he got it. Now, Me Too has become part of the family lore. DD, who was in my belly when Me Too died, will talk about what a nice cat he was and how we all loved him. It's sweet.

 

Sorry about your dog. I hope everything goes as well as possible.
 

post #5 of 15

I believe the first time I talked about death with my firstborn I said something along the lines of

 

Most of the time when people get sick, they get better on their own, or they go to the doctor for help or may have to stay in a hospital a while and then they get better slowly.  But sometimes, their bodies are too sick or too old to get better, and even with help from a doctor or hospital, they die - they don't breathe anymore and then everything else in their body stops working.  And we are VERY sad and will always miss them, but eventually we're OK again.  But they don't hurt anymore, so we're kind of glad about that at the same time we're sad about missing them.

 

 

Those were all the points I hit - about different levels of sick, about most of the time this *not* happening when people or animals get sick, and about it being normal to be sad and miss them, and staying the heck away from the "sleep" thing, which can terrify little kids.   I think I also said something about a lot of people (including me) believing that there is a thing called a spirit inside you and after your body stops working it goes to a place called heaven and watches over you like a good friend, or something along those lines.

 

Good luck, and I'm so sorry about your dog. 

post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by The4OfUs View Post

I believe the first time I talked about death with my firstborn I said something along the lines of

 

Most of the time when people get sick, they get better on their own, or they go to the doctor for help or may have to stay in a hospital a while and then they get better slowly.  But sometimes, their bodies are too sick or too old to get better, and even with help from a doctor or hospital, they die - they don't breathe anymore and then everything else in their body stops working.  And we are VERY sad and will always miss them, but eventually we're OK again.  But they don't hurt anymore, so we're kind of glad about that at the same time we're sad about missing them.

 

 

Those were all the points I hit - about different levels of sick, about most of the time this *not* happening when people or animals get sick, and about it being normal to be sad and miss them, and staying the heck away from the "sleep" thing, which can terrify little kids.   I think I also said something about a lot of people (including me) believing that there is a thing called a spirit inside you and after your body stops working it goes to a place called heaven and watches over you like a good friend, or something along those lines.

 

Good luck, and I'm so sorry about your dog. 


I have read that it is good with young kids to talk about the body getting "weak," and then not working any more, rather than sick and sicker, so that they don't make any association between themselves (or their parents) getting sick and that leading to death.

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katielady View Post


I have read that it is good with young kids to talk about the body getting "weak," and then not working any more, rather than sick and sicker, so that they don't make any association between themselves (or their parents) getting sick and that leading to death.

 

 

Fascinating!  I like that distinction.  I remember we talked about the difference between when we get colds (sick), when his sister had to be admitted overnight one time as a toddler for dehydration during a severe vomiting illness (sicker), and when I had emergency sugery and was in the hospital for 2 days and then took a couple months to fully recover (even sicker), but all got better in longer time frames...so I felt pretty good that he understood the difference between a cold and being too sick to be able to be helped anymore, after trying lots of different things.  Or at least it seemed that way.  But I like the distinction of "weak" vs "sick". 

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blt178 View Post

Thanks for responding... I didn't want to have to make the decision for him (our dog) but he is getting worse and I don't want him to suffer unneccesarily... I hadn't thought about having it done at home. That sits well with me. I like the idea that he would just go to sleep on his pillow with his squirrel stuffie. Am going to ask my vet and see if they will do that for us.

 

It's actually really comforting to see how at peace they become. 

 

If your vet doesn't do this, you might have a "mobile vet" in your area, they usually do euthanasia at home. If you go that route, one suggestion I would have would be to take him for a walk beforehand to empty his bladder and bowels. Sometimes dogs will void their bowels after the injection and it can be a bit of a distraction. 

 

As for talking to your daughter (being a dog lover, I seem to have missed the point of the thread entirely), another way to go at it might be to just ask her questions about how she's feeling and go from there. 

post #9 of 15

We have a book I'll Always Love You  that is about the death of a pet (dog) from the point of view of a little boy in the family.  It's a very nice book - we've read it and talked about the eventual loss of our own pets together.  It focuses on aging and changes in their dog, and how he can't do things he used to any longer, and how they'll miss and love him.  

post #10 of 15
There is also an excellent book by Fred (Mr.) Rogers called "When a Pet Dies".
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for the additional thoughts here! I was actually coming to update because my Benny passed away on his own tonight.... It was after her bedtime so my daughter doesn't know yet and my husband and I could just process and say our good byes without distraction. He was as close to a perfect dog as one can get... We will miss him intensely.

Anyway, I was still a bit unsure as to what exactly I was going to say and so was so pleased too see all of your additional suggestions here. I like the idea of speaking about him getting weak and knew I was definitely going to have to steer clear of the simple 'sick' analogy so I didn't freak her out. I will check out the book suggestions too... Might be helpful to fill in the story for her.

Thanks again for your input and here's to hoping our chat goes well tomorrow...
post #12 of 15

A note regarding having the dog put down at home and/or with the kiddo(s) present. Euthanasia is not always such a calm and peaceful event. It often is, but there can be times when it is not - and that can be very traumatic for all involved. But especially a kiddo.

post #13 of 15

I'm so sorry to hear about Benny. My thoughts are with you and your family.

post #14 of 15

mama i am sorry about benny. what a wonderful dog he is. his biggest gift is to give your child the gift of death at 3. your child does not have to understand fully. you are there to empahatise and answer questions. they will figure it out on their own. the earliest a child discovers death the better they are with dealing with their emotions. my ex at 40 had no real idea what to do. so its not so much about the 'knowing' but more about how to deal with ones feelings. 

post #15 of 15

Sorry to hear you've already lost your dog.  hug.gif  May you enjoy your memories of him together.    

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