Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Death of a Pet.

This Princess Pru the night before she went to Dog Heaven. We had an early Christmas for her and the boys served her a dinner fit for any Princess. Although it broke their little hearts to say good-bye to her it was an importnat part in the process of helping children deal with the death of their pet.

We all know the death of a pet is part of the human experience and when it touches our own children we want to make it as pain-free as possible for them. My kids don't have their own dog but my mum has two dogs who have become a big part of their lives, and in fact been claimed as their own! The boy's have had the companionship of these dog's since they were both born. Last week we were faced with the sadness of having to put down one of the dog's due to sickness and old age. "Pru" has been the true Princess in our eyes and the kind of dog who endlessly put up with being ridden like a horse, being part of the role-play, having her coat groomed as Master 2 played hairdressers with her, sharing a couch at rest time for both boys, enjoying a lick of an afternoon ice-cream shared on the back porch at Nan's house and generally providing them with the love and companionship children effortlessly form with family dogs. I knew that boys were going to be very sad by Pru's departure and would miss her dearly. You can do a lot to help your children process their pet's death and express their feelings and I hope this privded some of you with some helpful tips in the event that a family pet dies.

  • Before I told the boys about Pru I read a children's books that talked about the death of a pet . This then lead to me being able to explain to them that Pru was sick and that she was going to die. I read a lovely book called Dog Heaven, a cheerful look at the wonderful place that dogs go to when they die. In dog heaven, there are huge fields to run in, tasty biscuits to eat all day long, and fluffy cloud beds for sleeping.

  • Be honest. Don't tell your children their pet was "put to sleep" because they may get false hopes that it will wake up again! Or it may scare them into thinking they'll die in their sleep, too. I told the boys that the vet had come and said that Pru was too sick to stay here (on earth) anymore and therefore needed to go to Dog Heaven.

  • Master 4 understood far more than Master2 and naturally became very upset. I think it's important to let your children know that it's okay to cry and be upset. I told my boys that I too was upset and they saw their nan crying also.

  • Encourage them to talk about their pet and share memories when they're ready. Don't act as if the animal never existed or sweep its death under the rug. Only this week has Master 4 been ready to talk about the event and how he is feeling about it all. We both had a good cry and then decided to draw some pictures of things he enjoyed doing with Pru.

  • Together think of a way to memorialize your pet. As Pru was cremated, a special shelf has been made for her where the boys have made cards, we have put up pictures of her and her shiny collar sits proudly around her special box. I have also put together a photo collage for their room and they now include Pru in their nightly prayers.

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