Death of a Pet
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Death of a Pet
We just found out today that our 6 year old dog has cancer and
the vet only gives him a few months to live. How do we explain
this to our (almost) 4 year old son who is very attached to
him. Even if we wait until we lose our dog, what do you say
then??? Please let me know how you handle this situation.
Sad and In Tears
There is a wonderful book by Judith Viorst that you must buy: The Tenth
Good Thing About Barney. Another great one is: When a Pet Dies, by Fred
Rogers (that's Mr. Rogers). This should help a lot!
I am sorry to hear about the illness of your dog and can imagine you are
very much saddened. However, death is part of life, and this may become
a teaching for all of you. I suggest you tell your son what you know,
that the vet has found that the dog is very ill and may not live for
very long. Tell him you are very sad about this, and that you can
imagine he is too. Give him space to show you how he is taking the
information and what he needs from you. You will not be able to protect
your son from losses in his life, and hopefully by going about this as a
family in a caring way, showing that sadness follows loss, yet there are
ways to deal with it, he will learn some important lessons. My advice
is to please not wait until the dog dies to tell your son, better for
him to be prepared for this event.
So sorry to hear about your dog. We lost our cat when our daughter was
3 1/2. Our cat died at the vet's while we were at work and our daughter
at daycare. Every child is different, so I don't know if what we did
will work for you and your child.
First, we told her that our cat died and that means his body stopped
working because he got very, very, very sick. We explained that he was
like a toy without batteries, only there were no new batteries to put in
him. Second, we brought our cat home. The vet wrapped him in a towel
and put him in a little box. We all said good bye to him together. Our
daughter saw that he looked peaceful but didn't move when we touched
him. We told her that we were going to bury him in the backyard the
next day and that when she got home from school, we would all visit his
special spot in the yard. We decided that it might be too traumatic for
her to see him get put into the ground. We were careful not to say that
dying is like sleeping, because we didn't want her to be afraid of going
to sleep. We also bought a kid's book about a child who loses a cat (10
Good Things About Barney), but we never read it to her, because we
couldn't read it without crying heavily. (Crying is okay; just don't
freak out, because that could scare your child.) Our daughter seemed to
understand what had happened and seemed to handle it well. It's been a
year since our cat died. Occasionally she will tell us that she misses
her cat, but recently she started inquiring about getting a new cat.
Good luck... and hang in there.
I am so sorry to hear about your pet's disease. Recently, we lost our
12-yr old dog and it was totally heart-breaking. Our two children (age 5
and 2) handled it extremely well. This is what we did: Like you, we knew
that our dog had only months to live (due to a heart condition). We told
our 5-yr old that she was very sick and that her heart would eventually
We explained the basic function of the heart, so she understood that
when it stopped beating, she would die. Occasionally, we talked about
the fact that our dog would die. Our daughter would express her emotions
and we listened and acknowledged her. We don't believe in heaven, so
''doggie heaven'' wasn't going to fly for us. We told her that there was
a difference between the real ''you'' and your body. At death, your body
dies, but you move on. We explained that our dog could finally drop her
sick, old body and move on to something else - whatever it was that she
wanted to do. Maybe she wanted to be another puppy or a kitty cat, so
she could pick up such a body. The fact that there was no definite end
to her life, made it much more acceptable to our daughter. We ended up
having to put our dog down, because she became just too sick. Our
children were already in bed when we went to the Emergency Vet with our
The next morning, I pulled both kids onto the bed and told them that I
had to tell them something sad and something really happy. I told them
that our dog had died that night, but that she now was no longer in pain
and that she could do whatever she wanted. My son looked for our dog's
bed and when that wasn't there, he walked away to play with his cars.
Our daughter started to cry a little and I cried with her. I held her
and told her that I was also sad, but that I was really glad that our
dog was no longer in pain. She cried for a minute and then asked if she
could watch TV. A little later she wanted to know how our dog had died
and I explained that we had taken her to the vet and that he tried to
help her, but that she was just too sick. Then the vet gave her a little
shot that made her sleep. A little bit later her heart stopped. My
daughter knew that that meant death.
I wasn't sure what to do that day; should we stay home or not?
I decided to continue with our regular life. I informed my daughter's
teacher of what had happened and they were wonderful with her that day.
She did cry twice and the teachers allowed her to express her emotions
and once she did, she just kept on playing.
I hope that I was able to help you a little. I wish you much success
Our beloved dog was just diagnosed with a very aggressive form of
leukemia. While I am being positive, I know that the end is
near. As difficult as this is for me to face, I am very
concerned about my two young children - almost 5 and almost 2 -
especially my 2 year old.
I am hoping that some of you have some suggestions for books that
I can read with my children to help answer all of the questions
that I am certain they will have in the weeks to come.
Just getting prepared
Look at Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. God and heaven figure prominently,
which may or may not be right for your family. My agnostic kids (6 and
10) are not thrown by it. I cry every time I read this, so if you tend
to get weepy you may want to prepare your kids for that possibility
before you read it to them.
I'm so sorry your dog -- and you -- are going through this.
Been there and going there again
We lost two beloved dogs in the span of five months, and my kids were
about the same age as your kids at the time. I bought four books for my
kids (and me, it turns out) to try to help them. My son loved all of
them. I hated two and won't even name them, because they said idiotic
things about God wanting ''forever dogs''
to be with kids in heaven, so he sent kids up there. (I translated that
to mean that God was killing kids for the sake of dogs, something I
don't think the author meant.) I can't remember the third, and I don't
have it at my fingertips. I found them by searching Amazon's children's
books for death and pets.
But one book I loved was ''Dog Heaven'' by Emmma Chichester Clark (the
author and illustrator of ''I Love You, Blue Kangaroo''). It's not
currently available at Amazon. But it's a sweet story about a boy whose
dog died of old age and didn't get too maudlin.
But reading all of them--even the ones I didn't like--was really good
therapy for my older child. I think they made him feel better about it.
He asked to read them all over and over for quite a while the first year
after the dogs died.
The best advice I can offer outside of that is to be as honest as
possible about what's going on. My now 3-year-old still asks why the
dogs had to die. She's much more verbal now and seems to have stored her
questions over the past year and a half. I tell her they were old and it
was their time. We also have both kids say good-night to the dogs before
they go to bed, and I think that helps.
We also told lots and lots of stories about the dogs and their silly
antics. And I cried in front of my kids--probably too much--but I think
it helped them to know I was hurting, too.
Try any of these high quality books on dying pets:
I'll Always Love ou
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (excellent) Toby Murphy's Kate Jaspers
Dog The Dead Bird ellypub
Try ''The Tenth Good Thing About Barney'' by Judith Viorst and ''I'll
Always Love You'' by Wilhelm (don't remember first name).
''Dog Heaven'' with wonderful illustrations by Cynthia Rylant, as the
title implies, has a more spiritual tone if you are looking for that.
The death of a beloved pet is such a difficult time. My thoughts are
with you and your children Been There
''Badger's Parting Gifts''
I'm soooo sorry to hear about your dog. We just lost our own beloved dog
less than two months ago (she was only seven and it was a slow, downhill
illness, allowing us months to ''prepare''
for her passing). I was worried about my 4.5 yr old and my 2.5 year old
and how they would react once they heard their dog was gone. The two
year old was completely unfazed... just too young to understand
(although he would mimic what he heard and say things like ''I'm sad, I
miss our dog'' but then would move on and not even really know what he
had said). Our 4.5 year old was more aware and we spoke about how our
dog's body wore out and that she had died. She cried a little,
remembered what our dog looked like and declared her the best dog ever.
Just a few minutes later, she was asking for another dog! Yes, it's
I was in shock that she could move on so quickly. In reality, she cried
a little and say she was sad on and off for the last month or so, but
she is NOT burdened by the loss the way that I was (it was devastating
to me and I miss our dog so much). Just know that most young kids will
not grieve like we adult grieve and at the end of the day, that's also a
good thing. It's hard enough for me to deal with my own feelings, let
alone see my children in pain.
In terms of a book, I don't know of one. But we created our own book
online on shutterfly.com (a service I love). I choose a hard back book
and made it a story of my dog's life - from adoption to her memorial six
years later (including two moves, the arrival of two kids and all the
fun places we visited with our dog and the interesting things that we
used to do together). At the end of the book, I did talk about her
illness and how her body was wearing out. I included pictures of her
last day and then of her memorial. It's a nice book that we can all read
together, so we can remember ''the best dog ever''! :-) Dog lover with
Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) has a great book about pets dying that we
read when we lost our cat. I can't remember exactly what the title was,
but it was great for my kids.
I'm sorry to hear about your dog's illness. What has always helped our
family overcome the grieving is to have wakes for our dogs and friends'
dogs, to celebrate the joy they brought us during their short lives. The
wakes are happy dinners where we share photos of and stories about the
Since you asked about books to prepare your children for the dog's
death, check out ''Dog Heaven'' by Cynthia Rylant. It is not a religious
book, but it does make references to God and angels in a pretty benign
way and you have to be comfortable with that. My daughter always enjoys
this story, even 2 years after our dogs have died. (Excerpt: ''When dogs
go to Heaven they don't need wings because God knows that dogs love
running best. He gives them fields. Fields and fields and fields. When a
dog first arrives in Heaven, he just runs...Dog Heaven has clear, wide
lakes filled with geese who honk and flap and tease. The dogs love
this.'') The major bookstores usually have copies on their shelves.
My daughter also watches ''Goldie,'' a story about a goldfish that died,
one of many good stories on HBO's ''Harold and the Purple Crayon'' DVD.
We have an elderly dog whom she adores, so I figure the book and other
stories will prepare her for our dog's death when that time comes (as
well as the death of elderly family members).
The death of a beloved dog is a painful experience for the whole family,
but I believe it's also a way for children to learn the cycle of life.
That said, I recommend you start thinking about the way in which your
dog will die: put it to sleep or expire on its own at home. We've
experienced each. Our daughter was too young (1-
year) to say goodbye to the one we had put to sleep. When the time comes
for our current dog, I would like her to be able to do that. She also
was too young to realize what was happening to the one who died at home,
but I wouldn't want a 2- or 5-year- old to see it. It was not quick or
pretty, but it was the right way for this particular dog. I was at his
side the entire day.
I learned much from it and am glad I had the experience.
-- A dog lover
There is a wonderful picture book called Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
which may be helpful to you. The book has beautiful, simple pictures
and reassuring words that provide comfort to anyone, young or old, who
has lost a dog -EGW
My sympathy to you and your family for your impending loss. One little
picture book that was helpful to my then 5-year old daughter when we
lost our golden retriever is ''I'll Always Love You'' by Hans Wilhelm
(in soft cover). Because our dog didn't act sick I had a session with a
therapist specializing in bereavement therapy to get some guidance on
how to prepare my daughter. I'm sorry that I don't remember her name.
But her main advice was to talk to my child about the very
concrete--when our dog dies she won't need to eat or drink anymore; her
heart won't need to beat and she won't need to breathe. At the end, I
arranged with our vet to allow us to bring my daughter to view her
beloved dog after she died. When my daughter arrived at the vet--we had
told her only that we had very sad news, that her dog had died and would
she like to see her--she asked if she could lie down next to the dog and
then looked up in wonder and said ''her heart's not beating.'' I think
it really helped her to understand that death is permanent, at least as
much as any 5-year old can comprehend. We then had the dog cremated. It
took about a year for my daughter to be ready to scatter the dog's ashes
at her favorite place. As difficult as this was for everyone, I feel
that my daughter was as prepared as possible for her young age. anon
So sorry about you dog's illness. It is so painful when our beloved pets
go through terminal illnesses. I had to put my cat down last year and
wondered about how best to assist my daughter through this process. At
the time, my daughter was 3 years old.
We read the Tenth Good Thing About Barney - by Judith Viorst and Erik
Blegvad. Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant is also very touching. I think
that there's a Dog version. For us, we had to do a lot of reassurance,
demonstrate our sad feelings and answer the repetitive questions she had
truthfully. (She still occasionally asks where Woody is). Our vet
recommended that she be present for his procedure. We opted not to
include her because she was starting a new day care on that very day. I
now wish that we did include her. She has since been present for the
passing of our pet fish and wanted to touch them before we discarded
them. I think that this physical connection really helped her as well as
having an impromptu saying thanks and goodbye to our fish friends.
Please take care and my thoughts are with you and your family Amy
To the person who has a dying dog I recommend that you buy a book called
Dog Heaven - I can' remember the author. I always send it to anyone who
has recently lost a dog and they all appreciate it.
I also had my cat put down at home and my kids petted him while he went
to sleep (they were out of the room when he got the shot) - we
surrounded him with flowers and all his favorite things and while
upsetting it was better than having to drag him off to the vets and gave
a good sense of closure. briony
My children are older now but we experienced several pets who were sick
and died when my kids were little. I am sure people will recommend many
newer books but the one we loved was Ten Good Things About Barney. We
had funerals and burials-we always put a plant on top and when we moved
we took the plant with us.We kept it simple, involved the kids as much
as they wanted and what seemed appropriate for their ages and we were
there to answer questions that came up-often at the oddest moments-it
was heart breaking and joyful- how you explain death is based on your
own beliefs-we got clear on this before we talked to the kids so we
could be comfortable and available- parent
Have you read them Judith Viorst's ''The Tenth Good Thing about
I've always loved this book - how a family helps the little boy deal
with the death of his much-loved cat.
Good luck. They'll get through it, of course, but it's great you're
thinking of reading that will help.
I'm so sorry to hear about your dog! It's a very hard time, especially
because of your young children. (My dog is 15.5 and my ''first'' baby.)
A book that might be good for your kids is ''The Next Place'' by Warren
It's a very comforting book, non-religious, helping to understand loss.
My thoughts are with you Beth
First, I'd like to say I'm very sorry for such a diagnosis. We
just went through something similar with our cat. He went into
major kidney failure, and we had to put him down within a few
days of diagnosis, so there was very little prep time. We
don't have a 5 year old, only an almost 2 year old. But, we
kept (and still are keeping) conversations simple. The day my
husband took the cat in, our son noticed the cat missing from
the shelf he'd been in the night before, and said kitty gone.
I said yes, the kitty's gone. Just yesterday he was at the
shelf again, and said the same thing, and I again said, yes the
kitty was gone. Overall, he does not seem to be struggling
with this too much, though he does acknowledge that that
particular cat is missing from his favorite haunts (we do have
3 other cats though). And while both my husband and I have had
a hard time, and he's seen both of us grieving over the loss of
the cat, he doesn't seem to be terribly impacted by it. I
understand a dog is a little different, but this cat let our
son do anything to him, and was his best playmate of the other
3 cats, so there's a loss to him. Honestly, I would be more
concerned about the 5 year old (it brings up mortality of mommy
and daddy and other people in their lives too). A great
starter book is ''When a Pet Dies,'' by Fred Rogers (AKA: Mr.
Rogers). Also, ''My Pet Died (Let's make a book about it)'' by
Rachel Biale ''For Every Dog an Angel'' by Christine Davis
and ''I'll Always Love You'' by Hans Wilhelm is just a nice sweet
book. There are also more referency type books if you need
that kind of approach. Keep it simple, and try to answer their
questions age-appropriate. Again, sorry for the diagnosis of
your beloved dog.
After a long life, our dog's health is declining and we have
decided to put him to sleep. Any advice on what to tell our two
year old son? We don't want to tell him the dog went ''good bye''
or ''away''. We don't want him to think those words mean ''not
coming back''. He is somewhat fond of the dog. He says bye bye and
blows kisses to the dog when we leave the house. He pats the dog
and talks about the dog but that's about it. Since the dog is so
old, they have never really had the opportunity to play together.
We want to tell our son something but not sure what. We could
tell him the dog went to heaven and give a simple explanation for
what we think heaven is. It would be nice to hear what other
people have done in similar circumstances.
(In case anyone is wondering, we will have a vet come out to the
house after our son is asleep. I don't want him to see the dog
dying or us sobbing which I know is going to happen)
I am so sorry to hear about the impending loss of your dog. I
just had to euthanize my beloved cat and wondered how to explain
it to my 3 y.o. son. The vet came to the house in the morning
while he was at day care and that night I tearfully explained
that Max had died during the day. My son responded with a chipper
''Oh. Okay!'' But then several weeks later, and for many weeks
since, (still going on,) he asks about Max--where did he go, etc.
I just try to be as straight-forward as possible and explain that
his body stopped working and he's not alive any more--but even
though his body is not here, we still remember him in our hearts.
(I'm not religious so I don't feel right bringing heaven into the
mix.) My son definitely does not understand what I'm talking
about, except in the most general sense, but I think it's okay;
he gets that it's something important to me, and he knows that I
am sad about it, and he's working on figuring it out in time. I
think what worked best was just to be honest without jumping into
We put my dog to sleep at 19+ years - youngest kid around 2,
other in kindergarten. We had talked for quite a while about how
old and hurting the dog was getting. Then one day (when the kids
were not home) the vet came and injected her - it was hard for
us, a good thing for her. We told the boys that our dog had died
that day. We talked about how much we missed her and referred to
'hearing' her walking or expecting to see her. Years later, the
kids asked about a box on the kitchen counter - it was the box
with her ashes in it - just seemed like the right place for her
to be! Years later still, we told them (in a conversation about
assisted suicide) that we had her put to sleep........ 2 years
old is too young to hear the whole story (and confusing). Be
honest with your feelings and love.
one of the hardest things i've done
My condolences to you. We had to make the difficult decisions of putting
our cat to sleep last February and our dog last September. Our
daughter was about 2 years old. We decided to tell her that they went to
heaven, saying nothing about the euthanasia. She hasn't yet asked any
questions about what heaven means but I know the time will come. She
still talks about them and will tell other people they are in heaven. She
did ask one time why they were in heaven and why we couldn't play with
them. I said simply that it was their time to go. Luckily she didn't probe
any further. I'm just winging it with my responses, but am happy with
how we've explained it to her thus far. Good luck.
By the way, my daughter ''caught'' me crying a few times over our loss
and I just told her that I was sad because I missed them. She was okay
with that and it didn't seem to upset her.
The vet has said that our 17 year old cat will die soon. I'm
wondering how other parents have explained this to a 3 year
old. Our daughter is very attached to him and will definitely
miss him a lot.
My 18 year old cat died on my daughter's second birthday,
she was VERY attached to her and very sad. I thought the
best way to deal with it was to explain exactly what had
happened: Kitty died. Then explain that all living things live
and then die, just like plants, etc. No made up stories or
anything- this worked quite well. We had the cat cremated
and then let my daughter decorate the box (which she still
keeps on a shelf in her room 2.5 years later) once in a while
she still says- I miss her, she was the best cat ever. But she
dealt with it and got through it just fine.
I miss her , too
Before our beloved golden retriever died from bone cancer I spoke with a therapist
specializing in bereavement. Our dog was not acting sick so I though it would be
very difficult for our then 5-year old daughter to comprehend. The therapist
suggested talking in very concrete terms, such as ''when we die, we don't need to
eat, when we die our hearts don't need to beat anymore, etc.'' Using a picture book
called All Dogs Go to Heaven (I think there is one for cats too) to launch the
discussion worked very well for my daughter. We also worked with our vet to allow
my daughter to see the dog after it died (she was not present for the euthanasia)
and after some initial confusion, she climbed up on the table to lay on the dog and
looked up in wonder when she realized that the heart was no longer beating. It did
not lessen her grief but judging from her questions and comments as she grew
older, I know that it helped her to understand what happened.
There are so many books geared toward this subject. I have checked many of them
out at the library (I cannot remember the titles!!). It is a wonderful gentle way of
introducing the topic. You can do an online search for some titles or ask your local
librarian for some help finding appropriate books. I googled ''children's books about
death'' and came up with many titles. Must make sure that they are preschool
appropriate (some are for older kids) and that they resonate with your beliefs.
This is a hard one!
Our cat of 17 years died in her basket. We let our 3 yr old daughter see
the cat, pet her if she wanted. We explained the cat had been old and
had gotten sick and was no longer living. She watched as we wrapped
our cat in a towel and as a family, we buried the cat in our yard, placing
a large rock over the site so our daughter would know where she could
visit the cat. We made sure our daughter saw the cat & burial and had a
spot where she could visit the kitty when she missed her and wanted to
say hi. Our daughter still talks about our cat but seems to understand the
cat was old & sick. We explained all living things have a life cycle
including bugs, plants, people, our pets etc. She knows we are all sad
that our cat died but I believe letting her see the cat and help us bury her
was a good process for our 3 year old.
I am so sorry about your cat. It is a very sad time. To help
our 3 year old when our dog died, we used the book by Mr
Rogers ''When a Pet Dies''.
I found it very comforting for our son and opened up
discussions. Best wishes.
We went through this with our 16-year-old cat when our daughter
was 18 months old (she's now 2.9) . . . it was really hard! Our
cat, Daisy, suddenly became ill and after about a week of tests,
the vet said there was no hope. Throughout the week, we told
our daughter that the cat was very sick. When we knew we would
be putting her to sleep in a couple of days, we told our
daughter that Diasy was probably going to die very soon. She
already knew about people dying, because she had asked about
grandparents who died before she was born. Because our daughter
was so young, on the day we put the cat down, we told her, ''Say
goodbye to Daisy . . . she is going to the doctor but she is
very sick and she might not come back.'' When we came home, we
told her, ''Daisy died. Her body stopped working, then she
died.'' Our daughter asked a million questions (at least 5 times
a day for 6 months!) about Daisy's death. ''Why did Daisy die?
Why did her body stop working? Will your body stop working?
Where did Daisy go? Is she sad? Will she come sleep with me
tonight? Is she coming back home?'' And she would say things
like, ''Tonight I'm not going to sleep with Daisy. She died.
Her body stopped working and then she died.'' This went on for
what seemed like forever. We were very straightforward with all
of our answers to her questions, but tried not to overexplain.
When she asked if we would die, for example, we said, ''Not until
we're very very old, and we're not old right now.'' Anyway, good
luck with this . . . it is hard but in retrospect it wasn't as
bad as I feared for her. I get the feeling it would be harder
for our daughter now that she is older, but we'll see.
When our cat passed away last year, a friend recommended ''Desser,
the Best Ever Cat'' by Maggie Smith. It was the best thing
possible for my then-3-year-old. It is a fabulous story about a
young child and the cat in her house -- how the cat came to her
family and her perception of how he was there for her childhood.
B It deals with the sadness you feel when a beloved pet dies, and
has helped my daughter process it in a way that is appropriate
for her age. She still wants to read it occasionally and
remembers our cat with fondness.
Our wonderful 10-year old labrador retriever is getting on in his
years, and although he is currently in good health, we anticipate
that it will be only a few years before he ''crosses over into
Since he is my first pet dog (or first pet-anything that can't
have a burial-by-toilet), I am totally clueless as to how one
handles the physical aspects of a pet's death. What are the
options (burial? cremation? other?)? Who makes the arrangements?
We just want to be mentally prepared for this when it happens.
Wondering and preparing
I just had to put my 14 yr old Yellow Lab down last week.
There is no preparing yourself, you become an emotional wreck.
(At least I was) It's an awful thing to do. 9 time out of 10,
it's the best thing for the dog, but the human doesn't want to
let go. It's a very unselfish act of love.
We had our dog cremated and will bury her in our yard. Didn't
want to chance a wild animal digging her up.
The Vet will handle the details and calls when they are ready
to be picked up.
Hope you don't have to worry about this for many years.
We had to put our first dog, a labrador retriever, down last August. It was so very
hard and still is. It comes and goes in waves.
Anyways, a vet or a place like Animal Care Control will help you arrange a
''community cremation'' (meaning with other animals cremated together or a private
one (which cost us around $100). You can ask to have the ashes back or not. It
takes several weeks to get the ashes back and the service our vet used put it in a
nice wood box about 4''H x 5''W with lock and key and a card with the dog's info.
Hope this helps. Good luck and may you have peace when the time comes.
When our daughter was 5, it became clear that we were going to
lose our golden retriever. Having lost both of her remaining
grandparents in the course of the previous 14 months, I needed to
prepare her for the loss of her dog. I saw a therapist
specializing in bereavement and although I cannot remember her
name she gave some wonderful advice for a 5 year old dealing with
death. We did have our dog cremated--the vet who had to put her
down when it was time took care of everything. When my daughter
was ready (about 2 years later), we scattered the ashes at our
dog's favorite swimming place.
Our almost 18 year old cat died recently. Our kids are teenagers
so we all talked about what to do and decided to have him
cremated so we can scatter his ashes in our garden. We had it
done by Abbey in El Cerrito but I think most vets will handle it
for you. It was $140 but it was obvious that this was the right
thing for us. Hopefully you'll have a lot of years before you
have to face this.
My last dog lived thirteen happy years. During the last year of his life he lived with
some aches and pains, and had only one eye. I knew the night that he fell trying to
''take care of business'' that it was time so I called a 24hr vet to make an
appointment to euthanize him, took him for one last walk at the Berkeley Marina
with the close firends that had become part of his pack, and then said goodbye.
Most vets will give you a choice between cremation and group burial, or cremation
and then return the ashes to you. I know that the Berkeley Humane society returns
ashes in a pretty wooden box. If you are lucky enough never to have to make the
decision that it is time and your dog passes naturally I assume you can take him to
the vet and pay for cremation services if you want, but would recommend calling to
I assume some folks still bury their pets, but its not something I feel comfortable
with as a renter. It is common to keep old collars and tags to remember your pet by.
I've said good-bye to many beloved pets, dogs and cats, some at a natural age,
some way too young.
Unless an accident befalls him, you will have warning and time to prepare. I have
put my animals down when they were too sick to have any chance of recovery and
were clearly suffering too much. It's a very difficult decision to make, and to know
the right time to do it, but if you're tuned in you'll know when it's time. Warning:
you'll ask yourself repeatedly for awhile if you made the right decision no matter
what you do.
If you do need to put him down, you can do it at your vet's, or there are vets who
will come to your house (the option I've always chosen as less traumatic all around).
Your vet, or the traveling vet, can make the arrangements that you request. You can
have him cremated and the ashes buried anonymously with other dogs ashes. You
can have him cremated and get the ashes back to do with as you want. You can have
him buried at a pet cemetary (the most expensive option). You can't bury an animal
that big yourself, not only because of the logistics, but it's illegal because of
germs getting into the water table.
It's good to remember that our pets' lifespans are much shorter than ours and that
they are going to die before us. It's good that you're thinking about it.
How wise of you to be thinking about some of these details in
advance! Our elderly cat recently died, the second pet we have
had die in our care, and it was helpful on the emotional side
that we had figured out some of the practical stuff in advance.
If your vet ends up putting your dog down, their office will
take care of the body. The options I am aware of are the more
inexpensive cremation, where you do not get any ashes back, and
the more expensive one, where you do get back the ashes of your
pet. We recently chose this second option, and it was $140 for
an under 10 pound cat. Might be more for a dog.
We will bury the ashes in our yard under a cast-concrete ''rock''
with her name. You can order these online and maybe also in pet
stores. I don't think burying the animals body is a responsible
choice in an urban area.
If your dog dies at home, you can take the body to the emergency
vet on University Ave. at any hour and they will arrange for
cremation. Your regular vet may also do that if it happens
during business hours.
You have a sensible approach to a distressing situation. I
worked at a vet for a number of years and dealt with many kinds
of pet owners and saw many ways of handling the loss of a pet.
The first step is the death itself, either by euthanasia or
natural causes. You will know when its time to euthanise, a
dog has a look in its eyes that lets you know ''I'm in pain,
make it stop''. Let your dog go with some dignity. You can be
with your dog when the injections are given or you can let the
vets handle it in private, you can have home euthanasia's
also. Talk to your vet about the options. Euthanasia is not
distressing to animals, they are give a relaxant and then a
second injection that makes their heart stop. Its very quick
and you should be able to stay with your dog in the vets or in
your home for as long as you need to say good bye.
Remember to take the dogs favorite toy or blanket with you,
these can be placed with the animal when it is taken away.
After the dog has passed the options can be limited, vets can
arrange for animal control to take the dog and do a mass
cremation or a private cremation where ashes can be returned
upon request, this all depends on your vets policies. There
are also pet crematorians, you can transport the animal to them
and have the ashes returned to you. These are very private
locations that let you grieve in peace. I am not aware of
burial sites for animals and health and safety regulations
restrict you from burial on your property.
I hope this helps, my main recommendation is speak to your vet
about your options.
I'm so sorry about your dog. I lost one of my female Labs last
May at 9 1/2. I was lucky that I knew a bit about the final
details in advance. My dog had heart disease and my vet put her
down at my home, then took the body with her to store at the
office. I opted to have her cremated and to receive the ashes
back. This cost around $140, including a very nice wooden box
with her name on it. I believe cremation alone is pretty
cheap--maybe $30-60. It's a bigger deal to get the ashes back
because they otherwise cremate your pet with others. I believe
it's illegal to bury your pet on your property, for health
reasons (what if a raccoon dug it up? etc.). I plan to bury the
box on my mother's property the next time we visit (she owns
several acres up in Washington).
Best of luck to you. Labradors are wonderful.
I would appreciate hearing how others have approached the dying
of a pet with their 3 year old children. Our cat has bone
cancer. He is still enjoying life but I fear the day may come
soon when he will have to be put to sleep. My 3 year old son
knows his cat is sick and that the doctor may not be able to
help him. He is very worried. I am assuming it will be best that
he is not present when the cat is put asleep but that he should
have a chance to say good bye beforehand. I am unsure about the
burial, should he participate, or be shown the grave after the
fact or not at all. What have been your experiences good and bad?
Many thanks, Eva
We had two cats (litter mates) die within a few months of each other
year. Each one was a different situation and my kids (then 4 and 8)
reacted equally different each time. The first one had been quite sick.
One day I had to take him to the vet because he seemed like he could
go at any minute. We decided at the vet's office to put him to sleep.
was really hard on my kids to not get to say goodbye. Like your child,
they knew he was sick and I warned them that it might happen like this,
but even so, they were heartsick.
On the other hand, our other cat went downhill quite quickly. I put off
taking him to the vet to see how he fared over the weekend. Well, we
went out to dinner on a Sunday night and found him waiting for us -
barely alive - when we got home. We all gathered around him and held
him while he took his last breaths. It was really sad, but my kids
it incredibly well. They got to pet him and kiss him, which seemed to
For both cats we lit candelaria (spelling?) and put flowers and a
of the cat around the candle. I felt silly at first, but boy did it
process. We were able to share fond memories and such for a while.
So, I definitely vote for letting your kid say goodbye. It might be a
much to have him there while putting the cat to sleep, though. You
be distracted by the process and 3-year-olds aren't very understanding
about that. Maybe he could kiss and pet the cat goodbye at home and
maybe give him a cat toy for his ''journey to the beyond'' or something
Good luck and sorry about your kitty. It is a hard thing to go through.
had our boys for 14 years.
What an awful situation! I too have an older, much loved cat
with health problems. Thankfully, not too expensive yet.
If the cat is in pain from the crystals in his bladder and this
is causing serious tension in your family I would really
consider putting it to sleep. As much as you adore your animal
it is not worth the problems it could bring to your marriage!
After all it is a cat. And after all your first obligation is to
your family, specifically your marriage and your financial
viability. One has to draw the line somewhere between what is
reasonable for an animal and what their obligations are to the
humans in your life. I feel this way about my own pet.
Apologies to the animal welfare enthusiasts, and no guilt trips
love my cat but....
I have gone through
Here's what we did: We bought the excellent book ''Desser the
best ever cat'' by Helen Smith, that helped our 3 yrs old a lot
to process what was going on, before and after.
We did'nt mention putting to sleep. We talked about him being
very sick, deteriorating and death.
When the time came, we said that we will have to take him to the
vet and that he will die there because he is very sick.
My 3 yrs old had breakfast on the floor next to him...
We all went to the vet where I went with him and my husband
stayed with our children in the waiting room.
After checking the cat they came in to say last goodbye.
I wish you all well
When I was a little girl, my mom read me Judith Viorst's The
Tenth Good Thing About Barney, which is about a young person
whose cat dies...none of our cats were ill then, but Mom and I
both loved the book.
A couple of years ago, her favorite cat disappeared and never
came back...she was very sad. After about ten days, I dug up
our old copy of The Tenth Good Thing and called her up and read
it to her over the phone...we were both crying by the time I was
done...sniff...it's sad but hopeful, and just what I'd pick for
a 3 y.o. And who knows...sometime, twenty years from now, maybe
your kid can read it to you...?
I checked on Amazon and it's still in print:
I got this originally from a posting at the SF Gate Conferences - one
of the participants had lost a pet and this was posted by another
participant - many of us had tears in our eyes when we first read it.
Have since sent it to family and friends - hope it helps.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to
someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are
meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they
can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water
and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to
health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made
whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our
dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy
and content, except for one small thing; they each miss
someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one
suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright
eyes are intent; His eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly
he begins to run from the group, flying over the green
grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special
friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion,
never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your
face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you
look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long
gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
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