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Dog Bereavement - Children and Surviving Pets

What Shall I Tell The Children?

Dogs not only play an enormous part in our lives in terms of giving companionship and contributing to our well being both physically and emotionally, but also they are great educators and, providing parents and adults take a sensitive and honest approach, even the experience of their death can help a child learn deal with the losses of relatives and friends that may occur in future. 

It is strongly believed that lying to a child about a dog’s sudden disappearance can have serious emotional consequences and therefore they should be told when a pet is ill and of all the possible outcomes.  It is never a good idea to use euphemisms such as ‘put to sleep’ as this may lead to confusion.  A child may want to be present at an euthanasia and this will be at the discretion of the veterinary surgeon and the parent, but it is a good idea to let a child see their pet after it has died.  This will confirm to them that their pet has really gone but is also at peace.  Some children cope better with bereavement than the adults but don’t be surprised if they do follow a similar emotional pattern to adults and it is important that they should be allowed to speak of their feelings. Allowing a child to perform a burial of some sort of memorial will also help the grieving process.


This story was sent to us by e-mail and, whether it is true or not, it is very consoling.

A Dog's Purpose?

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, we’re all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

 I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
 
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker 's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
 
The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.''
 
 Startled, we all turned to him.  I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.
 
 He said,''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?'' The Six-year-old continued,
 
 ''Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."


Surviving Pets Grieve Too

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It is not unusual for surviving pets to suffer the loss of a companion and grief can manifest itself in a number of ways.  Some dogs may appear depressed and lethargic and will want to lie quietly alone away from the rest of the family.  They may show a lack of interest in food, walks, games or other animals.  This behaviour may continue for a number of days or even weeks but is nothing to be concerned about as it is quite natural.  Grieving pets should be treated with respect and love and not be forced into doing anything they do not want to do.  Eventually, like us, they will work they way through the mourning period until they reach a point of acceptance. 


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