Our dog, Beaux (pronounced Bo) had been with us for almost ten years. He was a beautiful, white Labrador Retriever who came into our lives as a puppy. Beaux grew up with our children and had been their constant companion, loyal friend and playmate for almost ten years. Beaux was at times, my children’s only friend when we moved to new cities and didn’t know anyone. He was always there to comfort us and to greet us when we walked through the door with his tail wagging furiously. He always demonstrated the true example of unconditional love.
Beaux was such a predictable pet. He had his routine in the morning of eating before going outside, he refused to go on the grass to do his business if the grass was wet and would bark at us if we tried to coax him into the pool as if to say, “I will NOT ever go in that pool!“. I could write a book about all of Beaux’s idiosyncrasies that made us smile and love him so much.
About a year ago, we brought another dog into our family, a little poodle named Bella. She quickly became Beaux’s playmate and companion. She followed Beaux all around the house and I like to think that Beaux took great pride in showing her how things worked around the Zisk family household.
Two months ago, after we returned from a family vacation, Beaux didn’t seem like his usual self. He appeared “down”, didn’t want to eat and would lie outside looking towards the back of the yard. We became concerned because this just wasn’t our Beaux. We thought he might have been depressed but my daughter and I decided to bring him in to see our veterinarian. Tests were run and x-rays were taken and it was determined that Beaux had what appeared to be a mass on his spleen. We were referred to an Animal Hospital down the road where more tests were run. The shocking diagnosis was that Beaux had a tumor that had spread throughout his abdomen and was bleeding internally. He was so sick and we were told he probably wouldn’t make it through the night. This scenario never, ever entered into our minds. In fact, Beaux passed away at the doctor’s office later that day.
Talking to our children about what had happened to Beaux was probably the hardest thing my husband and I have ever had to do. How do you explain how something like this could have happened when in the morning Beaux was home and by late afternoon had died? Unfortunately, the loss of a family pet is a harsh reality but is probably the first experience of death most children experience. Even though most pets don’t outlive their owners, I don’t think you’re ever prepared to deal with it when it does happen.
My husband and I decided it was best for us to be completely honest with our kids about what happened since our kids would see right through any story we would come up with.
Through this process of talking with our children and going through the loss ourselves, I’ve put together a few ideas that helped my family cope with this very emotional and traumatic event.
* Be completely honest with you children. If younger children are involved, choose your words carefully. It’s impossible to shield your children from the loss of a pet. Honesty is the best policy.
* Don’t let your kids find out through Facebook or Twitter. Since some of our kids live in other cities and work, the last thing we wanted was for one of our kids to find out from a post on Facebook or through Twitter (as well as any other social networking site). So, we did not let them post anything online until everyone knew.
* Allow for time to grieve. Pets are a part of the family and the loss is very emotional. Sometimes it takes a while to get over.
* Create a way to “remember” your deceased pet. I’m in the process of putting together groups of pictures of Beaux for my children, especially for the children that live away from home to help them remember the happy times they had with Beaux.
* The decision of whether or not to get a new pet and when is a personal decision. I believe other pets in the home grieve as well. Our little poodle clearly knows something is “off”. She gets nervous when we leave and sometimes won’t leave our side. Since our poodle craves companionship, we have decided that we will bring in a new member to the family. It might be better for others to wait.
Here are a few books from Amazon.com I found that might be helpful for children to deal with the loss of a pet:
Book Description from Amazon - My cat Barney died this Friday. I was very sad. My mother said we could have a funeral for him, and I should think of ten good things about Barney so I could tell them…
But the small boy who loved Barney can only think of nine. Later, while talking with his father, he discovers the tenth — and begins to understand.
Book Description from Amazon:
Illus. in full color. “In this gentle, moving story, Elfie, a dachshund, and her special boy progress happily through life together. One morning Elfie does not wake up. The family grieves and buries her. The watercolor illustrations, tender and warm in color and mood, suit the simple text perfectly.”–School Library Journal.
Book Description from Amazon :
Many people feel a magical connection with one special cat or dog in their life. These two heartwarming books celebrate the timeless love between people and their “forever cats” and “forever dogs”. Filled with colorful illustrations of cats and dogs lovingly cared for by their guardian angels, these charming little books will delight animal lovers young and old and bring comfort to anyone who has had to say goodbye to their best four-legged friend. Perfect for any cat or dog lover.
If you’ve ever gone through something like this, I’d love to hear how you helped your children deal with it.