I have an almost 13 year old dog who is not doing very well. I suspect that within the next 6 months I will either lose her naturally, or have to put her down. DS is just 24 months, and knows and likes the dog, but isn't particularly attached or anything. He will likely be 2 to 2 1/2 when we lose this dog. If I have to put the dog to sleep, should I make a point of letting him say goodbye? How would I explain that? Should I not tell him? I'm sure he will ask about her if she's not there anymore, but he will eventually forget. I don't want to confuse him by telling him to say goodbye to the dog, but I don't want him to think that when a pet or person leaves, that they might never come back. How do I do this the right and emotionally healthy way?
Life is strange and wonderful. Me , DP , DS (3/09) , 3 and 4
I have a 4 year old and a soon to be 3 year old. I told them that Buddy was sick, really sick. He wasn't going to get better. The 4 year old asked if he was as sick as Grandpa (Grandpa, my father, died last year). I told him that Buddy was just as sick and that he was dying. Daddy would take Buddy into the doctor again and Buddy's doctor was going to help him die and make it so Buddy didn't hurt anymore.
The 4 year old said that was good, ran over and petted Buddy and then went back to playing. The almost 3 year old didn't even acknowledge the conversation. Since then our 4 year old has told everyone he knows that Buddy died and isn't sick anymore. The 3 year old has not mentioned the dog and doesn't seem to notice he is gone. My 4 year old is very sensitive and I really thought this was going to be traumatic, it hasn't been at all. DH and I are the only ones that have cried over Buddy.
Unfortunately, we have been through this three times in my daughter's life. at 2 or 3 we had to have our 14 year old dog euthanized we read some books from the library Jasper's Last Day (I think was th name) and read rainbow bridge. Then we took the dog to the veterinarian and asked dd if she wanted to be there when vet gave dog a shot to make her heart stop working. She decided to be there and pet the dog, said good bye and was ready to go home without a tear. On the way home she freaked out but never mentioned the dog just was screaming. When we got hope she chose some items to bury with our dog and wanted to be there for the burial but fell asleep. Her behavior was off for a few weeks or longer after this event as she processed the loss.
The next was our cat who died when dd was 4. And this past winter at 5 we had to have another this time 16 year old dog euthanized. Once again we explained what was going to happen and she chose to be present. This was harder as she understood more and cried, wanted to know why the vet could not save the dog etc...
I think it was necessary and helpful that she be present and if I had to do it over, I would do it the same way we did. It's part of the life cycle and great way to learn about emotions, life, death, loss, healing. Your child will take their cues from you.
I agree do not use the words put to sleep. Too scary for kids. sorry for you pet. So hard.
Sorry if this is disjointed, the pain is a bit fresh:
We had to put our beloved 17-yer-old kitty down on Friday. DD is 33 months. Over the last few months as he has been in decline, DD actually distanced herself a bit from him. (She is very bonded to our other, slightly younger kitty.) Knowing our kitty was close to death, we spent the last few weeks talking a lot about how very very old and very very sick he was and she became extremely gentle while handling him. On Friday after a severe turn for the worse, DH, DD, and I went to the vet together. DH and I knew that it was unlikely anyone could fix our Gus. When the time for the shots came, we let DD pet Gus and told her she wasn't going to see him again because his body couldn't be fixed and soon he wouldn't be able to eat or sleep or play anymore. She said a breezy goodbye. DH went outside with her while I cuddled our little kitty. After, DH and I cried but DD didn't. She's been a bit off the last few days. She says things like "We had to share Gus with other kids so that they could play with him." And that Gus was broken. She asks sometimes when he's coming back. I try to keep explaining that he isn't off with some other family, that we didn't give him away, and that his body was very old and very sick.
Overall, I think she's handling it okay. I think she's feeling a little out of sorts, but don't know if it is due to DH and I being upset or her own grief at the change in our little family. She sees me crying and gives me lots of hugs and asks me if I'm happy again. I explain that Mama is happy in many ways, just sad that Gus died. I tell her how her hugs help. I don't let her see me get overly upset because it scares her, but I do let her see me cry a bit and tell her why if she asks. DH believes strongly in an afterlife for ourselves and our kitties, but I am more skeptical. Either way, we have left that out of the dialog because I think talk of a "kitty heaven" might confuse her more at her young age.