children and loss of beloved pet- should they be present? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 24 Old 03-28-2010, 03:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for- just writing about this and wondering if others have been through similar experiences and have any advice or encouragement to offer. Although I know there are no right answers, and we will have to do what seems right for us when the time comes.

Our 11 yr old dog has cancer, and has come to the end of the time predicted she would live. She is still happy, eating, and playful, but it's obvious that her symptoms are increasing and it can't be much longer. We have had her since 6 weeks old, long before we had kids.

Our kids are extremely close to her, especially my 7 yr old. He plays with her and brushes her and talks to her all the time. The kids know she is sick, and getting older, and that animals, like people, don't live forever, and there will be a day we won't have her any more. But just imagining HOW we are going to deal with her loss, is just unimaginable to me. It is going to be so hard to deal with our own grief and loss, and be a support to them, explain things to them, and not have them be scared when all this is happening. She is a huge part of our lives and none of us can imagine a house without her here.

We have found a vet who makes house calls so when we make the decision to put her to sleep, it will be here in her own comfortable surroundings, and we won't have to rush her to the vet's office. I just dont' know whether it's appropriate for a young child to be present when we put her to sleep. He is very sensitive, and asks questions about death and has a good understanding for his age. He has been to funerals and seen the body in the casket and been fine with it as we explained things to him honestly. But is it too scary for a child to see the pet actually being put down? Or is it a good thing for him to see her going peacefully to give him closure and see that she is peacefully asleep, and not just be out of the house at the time, and come home and find out she's gone.

It's eating me up every day, not knowing whether we will walk in to find her having seizures or bleeding out or something equally scary, or whether we will come home and find her gone somewhere in the house, and I'm alone with 3 kids most days so will likely have to handle this on my own - at least the initial dealing with it as dh is 45 mins away at work most of the time. I'm just praying that we will be lucky enough to be able to see that she is doing downhill, and be able to make the decision to let her go in peace before something really scary happens in front of the kids and forces the decision.

And I"m so sad that we have to lose our beautiful, sweet puppy in this way, yet grateful for all she's brought to our lives, and grateful to know ahead of time that we are in our final months with her, so we make sure every day counts.

Any thoughts or words of wisdom would be much appreciated.
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#2 of 24 Old 03-28-2010, 03:56 PM
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I have been through the loss of several pets, the most recent being our little 14yo dog who was put down last year. He was a rescue dog; we got him when he was 10yo, and he was really high maintenance and my kids were not particularly close to him, so it's not the same thing, but....

My husband reacted REALLY badly to being present for the euthanasia. He is 39yo and we have been together for 5 years. Prior to that, he was a lifelong bachelor and had never had a pet of his own. He remembers a dog of his grandfather's dying when he was a kid, but that dog was hit by a car. Not the same thing. DH said he doesn't think it was a good idea for him to have been in the room when our dog was put to sleep, and he didn't really love the dog, either. He liked and tolerated him for my sake, but doesn't really miss him.

I am really big on giving kids choices and not dismissing their desire to participate just because they're little, but euthanasia is not always all warm and fuzzy and peaceful. Our dog yelped hysterically for a full minute after they gave him the initial tranquilizer. Sometimes that medication can sting, but it can also just make an animal vocalize because it affects that portion of the brain. DH and I were both bawling our eyes out.

Another time, I had a cat who was FIV positive, and when I decided to finally put him down he was extremely dehydrated and it took them two or three sticks to find a vein. He was sedated so he wasn't overly anxious, but it was anxiety-producing for ME!

I really think I would explain to them what was going to happen, give them time to say goodbye, and have the procedure done without them present.

On a side note, I think very young children might not understand the difference between a euthanasia injection and any other sort of injection. Might be confusing and/or bring back sad memories if they ever needed a shot or IV for themselves in the near future.
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#3 of 24 Old 03-28-2010, 06:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am really big on giving kids choices and not dismissing their desire to participate just because they're little, but euthanasia is not always all warm and fuzzy and peaceful. Our dog yelped hysterically for a full minute after they gave him the initial tranquilizer. Sometimes that medication can sting, but it can also just make an animal vocalize because it affects that portion of the brain. DH and I were both bawling our eyes out.

I really think I would explain to them what was going to happen, give them time to say goodbye, and have the procedure done without them present.

On a side note, I think very young children might not understand the difference between a euthanasia injection and any other sort of injection. Might be confusing and/or bring back sad memories if they ever needed a shot or IV for themselves in the near future.
Thank you so much. these are really good thoughts that I hadn't considered.

I"m sorry about the loss of your dog. I'm sure that must have been really tough. Wonderful that he lived 14 years!
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#4 of 24 Old 03-29-2010, 01:10 AM
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My initial reaction is yes they should be there if they want to be until I actually thought about the euthanisation of pets I've witnessed.

My childhood cat was put to sleep at my parents house aged 15+ (an adopted stray we'd had for 14 years, I was 21) and I went home to say goodbye. She had congestive heart failure. She fought and spat (although she had the breath for neither) while the very experience vet tried to find a vein but she was so shut down peripherally that the vet finally injected into her kidneys. It was awful. The only time up until then I'd ever seen my Dad cry

I supported my sister when the vet called from an exploratory surgery to say her cat was riddled with cancer and there was nothing they could do. He was kept anesthetised and we rushed to the office so they could euthanise him without waking him from the anesthetic. Really, really sad. He looked so vulnerable and alone.

My worst was my own old cat. Aged 18, she'd had cancer for 6 months and was simply done. It was time to let her go (incontinent of frank blood from her bladder constantly) and she purred like a motorcycle up until her breathing stopped. She was such a lovely cat and even though I knew (really knew) it was the kindest course for her, it broke my heart. That purring...while I know a cat in distress will purr, hearing it when I'd chosen to end her life felt like such a betrayal of her trust.

I'm not sure a child needs those memories, you know?

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#5 of 24 Old 03-29-2010, 08:38 PM
 
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We went through this recently, and opted to have DS present in the room. Our dog was taken to the back and given the equivelant of a heplock, then brought back to us. He all sat on the floor with him and comforted him, petted him, told him we loved him. He was given an injection to make him fall asleep, then given the euthanasia injection. DH and I openly cried, DS did not, but I think he was too young to fully understand. Our point in all being in the room while it happened was to make sure our dog left us surrounded by love. We were all able to say goodbye in our own way.

I think that there is nothing wrong with having a child present, just make sure to talk about what is going to happen, and be prepared to take the child out if that is what they need. Maybe make sure the vet prepares the injection site outside of view if necessary, or have your children come back in after the euthanasia, if they are not comfortable with being in the same room while it happens.

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#6 of 24 Old 03-29-2010, 09:15 PM
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I think that there is nothing wrong with having a child present, just make sure to talk about what is going to happen, and be prepared to take the child out if that is what they need.
Honestly, I don't think the average 4yo has any real understanding about death. Things would be quite different with a 7yo. And I would think that most 4yos would become a bit anxious and confused at watching his parents cry over a "sleeping" dog.
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#7 of 24 Old 03-30-2010, 07:07 AM
 
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#8 of 24 Old 03-30-2010, 07:18 AM
 
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#9 of 24 Old 03-30-2010, 09:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all so much. It's been a tough day, she is getting worse and I'm feeling like this might be happening soon. It has been really good to read about your different experiences, and how you approached it and how your kids handled it. I am not as concerned about what to do w/the 4 yr old, because I don't think he *needs* to be there. I would not feel awful about him being somewhere else for the actual event. He would probably be fine with an explanation and chance to say goodbye ahead of time. It's the 7 yr old I feel may really need to see and process this.
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#10 of 24 Old 03-31-2010, 09:32 PM
 
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no way, heck my teenager at the time didn't even want to be there but was old enough to choose.
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#11 of 24 Old 04-02-2010, 10:33 AM
 
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I would not invite my 7-yr-old. I very recently had my cat put down & that was not my first viewing/handling of a dead pet, but my first eye-witness to any of their deaths & it was HARD. She took the tranquilizer very well, but they did have some trouble with the death shot. If she minded, she was not able to express it. At any rate, the second time the attempted the death shot, it went perfectly & she passed immediately. However, since a child is usually more sensitive, they could have freaked out when the first shot was not going in correctly (has to be inserted in a vein, they just couldn't get it right, not a huge deal).

I would explain to the child what was going to happen, let him spend time w/ the dog before hand, and then let him see the dog immediately after, before any bowel release. Just, having been at one, no, I would not want my kid there So sorry for your family

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#12 of 24 Old 04-05-2010, 02:14 PM
 
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I am so sorry you have to go through this. I don't think I would want my child to witness the euthanasia. Mainly because of other poster's experiences with all the possible distressing outcomes. When I had my dog put down, death was instant. We had already sedated him at home. We did not take our 6-1/2 year old daughter but we did bring our dog home and she got to see him and touch him and know that he was gone. We had a little ceremony and buried him in the yard.

The sea monkey has my money.

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#13 of 24 Old 04-05-2010, 02:25 PM
 
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are you choosing to keep your 7 year old away because of the grieving, because he is so sensitive?

i would seriously talk to him and ask his wishes. and then respect that. i s would tell him exactly what happens. it could be the most moving experience of his lifetime. but i feel HE has to make that decision. not anyone else. dd and i watched marley and me with tears streaming down both our eyes.

my dd is 7 and she would be really hurt - inspite of all she will suffer - to NOT be there. seh was there for her gpa and gma at 5 when they passed.

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#14 of 24 Old 04-05-2010, 08:21 PM
 
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#15 of 24 Old 04-08-2010, 09:58 AM
 
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Well... I recently had my old beagle girl put down (previously undiagnosed lung cancer), and to be honest - I didn't want anyone else there. The kids both loved her - and she loved them - but she was my girl, and vice-versa. It was hard enough to handle my own grief while comforting her. Both of my kids understood (they're older) and said their goodbyes beforehand.

Having worked as a vet tech, I've seen plenty of euthanasia's. Some are very calm and peaceful, and some are anything but. I personally wouldn't advise a young child to be present.
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#16 of 24 Old 04-12-2010, 04:30 AM
 
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I myself won't be able to see my own pet put to sleep forever.

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#17 of 24 Old 04-12-2010, 05:43 AM
 
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My father and i took our old dog to be euthanised. He fought like crazy, had to be muzzled, and was clearly in pain (from his arthritis, one of his many issues) from having his leg held for the shots. Plus he was so big he needed 2 syringes of the killer and so the nurse was compressing a vein at the top of his leg so they could get all of it IN to the vein before letting it make its way through his system. It took 3 of us to hold him still while the vet worked. I was 24, and i found it incredibly hard to watch, and it has left me with a pretty brutal final memory of him. I don't regret it, it was time, past time for him, and my dad needed the support and i DO believe it's part of being a responsible pet owner, but i'd not risk my kids seeing it unless they were old enough to have explained, and understand, what was happening. I know if my DD (4) saw that sort of thing she'd be left sure we had brutally murdered the dog while he fought and cried. FWIW my mother had died the Friday before (we had been putting off his euthanasia because she was so ill too and they were best buddies) and that was easier to watch. Obviously ymmv. Can the kids wait in another room and come in when the dog is down already, to say goodbye?
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#18 of 24 Old 04-16-2010, 09:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Everyone, thank you SO much for sharing your stories, and how you handled the loss of your dear companions. I has been comforting to read. We are still hanging in there- the hard thing is that one day, she will be really bad and I am in tears and thinking we should call the vet and today is the day- and we decide to wait a couple days to see what happens, and then she is fine. A couple weeks ago we thought it was the end, and now today she is doing better again. Living with this emotional roller coaster has been so hard, I never know what the day will bring, what I will find when I come home after being away, or if she will come greet us in the morning or we'll find her somewhere.

Amazingly, a friend just went through the SAME exact thing, same age dog, same diagnosis and symptoms (it is a rare cancer)- they all went together to the vet to put him to sleep- their 6 yr old and teenager, and while it was rough for all of them, they feel it allowed the 6 yr old to process it and to send him off as a family.

Hugs to all
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#19 of 24 Old 04-17-2010, 11:42 PM
 
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We had to have one of our cats euthanized last year. DS was 18 months and we were all there for the event. DH took it the worst. I explained beforehand about how sick Del the cat was, and that he was going to die. DS was not very verbal yet.

It all went very peacefully... but then we had to shelter in the hallway for a tornado warning. DS was quiet and more clingy for a week or so, but recovered.

In some ways I think it helped prepare him for the other funerals we've had in the past year.

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#20 of 24 Old 05-18-2010, 08:01 PM
 
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A little late to this topic but:
Our kitty had to be put to sleep due to cancer. I asked my GGs (groovy girls) if they wanted to be there when she was euthanized. I explained what would happen and how our kitty may look when she was dying/dead. GG#1 chose not to be there and GG#2 did. She patted Skittles until the end and I think it helped her understand death a little better
I felt it was important for them to choose how involved they wanted to be.
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#21 of 24 Old 05-18-2010, 09:32 PM
 
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The loss of a pet is no different than a loss of a deep friend. We lost our dog 2 years ago to old age- it was scary in the last month of her life as her body started to give out under her and she lost control of her lower body. My girls were confused and still had hope she would live forever. It took us nearly 2 years to get another dog- and I always knew that when the time was right the right dog would find us. We are happy to report we have gotten an amazing rescure dog- who was the same bread as our beloved Sea Jay. Becasue his background was not ideal (to say the least) he is beyond attached to us- it is amazing how much he becomes out of wack when anyone of us is not at home. It has been the best blessing we could have had. He has sealed a part of our hearts that was very very broken.

We still miss our sweet Sea Jay- and we have a huge picture of her in our house- out new dog has little moments where it makes you think Sea Jay is still alive in a little part of him.

We decided to have her cremated- I think for me at least- it was the only way I knew I could take her with me where ever I went. In the end- we will spread her ashes at our cabin, but still, I do not have the heart to part with her.

It will not be easy- it will suck- maybe even worse than you think it will right now. It is a death and you should know you will feel it- raw. It is ok to feel it. I still can tear up just writing about her.

I will say- from my life in putting a dog to sleep- it was the most kind thing to do. It was not painful (except for me) and for the first time in a year or two I could see her calm. Her body was not all knotted up like they get when they are old- she looked like a 4 year old dog in her prime. It gave me peace.

We choose not to have our girls with us- although they were close to her, I just could not imagine them seeing me in that pain or being confused about the process. It is a very deep personal choice.

I am sorry for your loss.

[B][I]~Ang~ Mom to 2 sport-head crazy girls: Rainey and Breeze  and my little lost love- @18 weeks with gestational age of 7 weeks
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#22 of 24 Old 05-29-2010, 12:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just wanted to write an update for those of you who were so kind to share about your experiences and offer words of comfort and advice.

We did have to put our dog to sleep about 3 weeks ago. It became obvious that it had to be done asap, although we did have a day or so to make plans and prepare the kids. That was an extremely difficult day.

We asked our 7 yo if he'd like to be present, and surprisingly, he vehemently said "NO!" My dh took him for a long walk with her to say goodbye and he was so angry. We kept him busy all day, and as a wonderful coincidence he was already scheduled to have a playdate with his friend who's the same age, who just lost her dog to the same diagnosis, and it was the perfect place for him to be, with people who understood what he was going through and how to respond appropriately and compassionately.

I told my 4 yo earlier in the day and he didn't have much of a response, he just thought a minute, frowned, and said "you mean we won't see her again for a WHOLE WEEK?" (broke my heart) and never mentioned it again.

We had the kids with neighbors while we said goodbye, and it was the right thing to do. Dh and I could focus on what was happening and support each other. I feel good now about it just being us, it was very calm and peaceful and everything I would have wanted.

Our 7 yo was very angry at first, throwing things and screaming, and didn't sleep for the whole night, and then became manic and talked constantly for about 24 hrs. We all took a day off and just stayed home and rested and grieved. We printed out lots and lots of pictures of her with the kids as babies and as a puppy, and he carries a big picture of her around with him everywhere. the kids just talk about her all the time now and tell everyone they meet that our dog is a spirit now and in our hearts. The 4 yo still asks if she will come back when he's a grown up.

Overall I think things are as good as they possibly can be with such a loss, and I feel relieved that we made it through a tough time as a family and are continuing to help each other work through this.
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#23 of 24 Old 06-02-2010, 07:33 PM
 
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I wanted to tell you I am so sorry for your loss. I really appreciate you sharing your story, last night it became clear that we were not going to be able to save our 8 year old golden retriever. We are having her put to sleep in about 20 minutes and because of this thread I was able to prepare our boys, ages 14, 12, and 5. We have decided to allow our older two kids to be present at their request. Our younger two children will stay with our neighbors.

Heather: Mama to my amazing boys A-14.5, C-13, & M-5.5, and my sweet girl S-2.5 and introducing our little surprise Liam Michael, born 12/28!
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#24 of 24 Old 06-03-2010, 05:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am so, so sorry. I hope it went as peacefully as possible and you guys are doing all right today
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