children and dying pets

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Col. Crackpot
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children and dying pets

Post by Col. Crackpot »

Today we learned from our vet that our beagle, Flash Gordon has cancer. While we may be able to prolong his life somewhat with an amputation and treatment, the prospects are dire and he will most likely suffer quite a bit through it. I do not want to put him through that kind of pain, so we will be putting him to sleep.

The problem we face now is how to explain this to my 6 year old twin boys who adore him to the point where they consider him their four legged brother. I'm at a loss for words as this will devistate them to know the truth, and i really don't want to lie and use the 'he retired to a beagle farm in west virgina' story my parents pulled on me... if there anyone here who faced a similar situation? How did you handle it?
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Borgholio
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Re: children and dying pets

Post by Borgholio »

As a child, I was simply told my furry friends went to heaven. It's still a lie, but not one of the "Beagle Retirement Farm" caliber. I don't think that hiding the idea from death is a good things, kids need to know about it at some point. But softening the blow a bit might help at that age.
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Alferd Packer
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Re: children and dying pets

Post by Alferd Packer »

Presuming your sons understand death as a concept, you should be honest, but not brutally so. You could start by making sure that they understand that Flash Gordon is very sick, and he's too sick to get better. I don't know if they'll understand the necessity of preventing your pet from dying slowly in constant pain, so you should say that putting him to sleep is necessary because he is so sick. You'll need to pick the terms that you think your boys will understand.

I also don't know if you should let them say goodbye before you take him to the vet, because it's going to be traumatizing enough when you break the news that he's actually gone. That'll be a decision you have to make, as you know your sons best. Afterwards, though, you should make sure that your boys understand it's OK to be sad, mad, or however they react, and let them know that you're just as upset as they are.

FWIW, we had many dogs have to be put to sleep when we were growing up. The earliest was when I was about your boys' age, and it was explained to me something like above. I was not allowed to say goodbye(in fact, I think it happened during the day, while I was at school) Looking back, I think it was the right choice, because I never blamed either of my parents for not allowing me to do so. Some years later, when I was a teenager, we had to put another dog down, and I knew it was coming. I got to say goodbye, and it fucking ruined me. I was a mess for weeks.

Either way, it's going to hit your whole family hard. There's no way around it. You're going to need to work hard to try to cheer up your boys afterward, and I'm fairly certain you're going to feel like you're pissing in the wind on that front for a good long time. I imagine you'll have to deal with nightmares, acting up in school or at home, being inexplicably angry or defiant, or any number of seemingly strange behaviors. Keep firmly in your mind the idea that this is all part of the grieving process and, to a point, it needs to come out. If you let them know that feeling the way they feel, whatever it is, is OK, it will help them come to terms with it and stop them from acting out.
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Re: children and dying pets

Post by Stofsk »

A couple of years ago, we had to put down our dog who had been in our family for nearly two decades. My brother's step-daughters were told about it (they knew her and played with her and our other dog whenever they came to visit, but she was never 'their' dog so to speak), who were around the same age as your boys - maybe a bit older but I don't think the oldest was even 10 - and they were told gently but honestly that Shasa had grown very old and that she could no longer function properly. In essence, she was in a lot of pain and suffering but would not die, so she needed our help. She had lived a good and long life, and we owed it to her to lessen her pain.

I would argue this is the best course of action. The girls were emotional, but I don't think that's a bad thing. I certainly don't think it's worse than lying to them. People who lie to their kids and tell them shit about how the dog has gone to some kind of mythical farm that doesn't allow visitors... well to me, that sounds like a good way to alienate your child. Honesty is really the best policy in matters dealing with the death of a loved one, be it family member or a pet (I consider my pets my family as well, and it sounds like your children have the same outlook). Of course they're going to be upset, of course they're going to cry - hell I cried too when the vet put the needle in Shasa and i saw her die. I fucking loved that dog. But dealing with death is a necessary part of being human, and children need to learn about it.
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madd0ct0r
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Re: children and dying pets

Post by madd0ct0r »

A good book can go someway to letting the kids internalize the lesson in their own time.
http://www.amazon.com/Childrens-Books-D ... 4YEU2L89UW

I dunno, we got through a lot of pets growing up, and most were buried in the back garden, with a little poem or funeral service included. Having a little spot to go to can help afterwards, as it's a physical link back to their memories.
I wouldn't hide it from them, but I'm not sure a dramatic 'final goodbye' would be a good idea either.
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