Tag Archives: pet grief

Help Kids Say Goodbye to a Pet

Great Last Minute Gifts! $25 Restaurant.com e-Gift Cards for $10. Buy. Print. Give Instantly

10 Tips to Help Kids Say Goodbye to a Pet


Losing a pet is often the first time a child faces death. Grieving is hard for children who have not confronted mortality. Children want pets to live forever. They lash out against euthanasia. Here are steps to help them accept aging, sickness and loss of a pet.

Kids and pets share a tight bond.
Kids and pets share a tight bond.

1. Be honest. Pets may not get better despite your efforts. All living creatures grow old and die. Different species have varying life spans. Children usually reject the concept of euthanasia. Be clear that adults make these decisions in the best interest of the pet and the family. You may have to repeat this several times over the course of a few weeks. Start the talk early so the idea has time to sink in. Do not argue. Be matter of fact.

2. Share information about medical choices. At some point the right choice may not be to prolong life through additional treatment, but rather to provide comfort and love.  Tell your kids this ahead of time.

Let children help in care.
Let children help in care, such as placing blankets around the house.

3. Let kids help in the care of the pet. Children gain a sense of empowerment and compassion when they care for an animal. As a dog ages it may not want long hikes, but it does need frequent short walks, even just around the block. Explain that this helps the dog both physically and mentally.  A child can place additional blankets around the house so that the older pet has a soft warm place to rest and still be near the family. They can give extra pets or treats. Praise them for their help.

4. If the the time comes for euthanasia, tell the child ahead of time. It is tempting to avoid this conversation. But your child needs a chance to “say goodbye.” Younger children should not accompany you to the veterinarian.

A book about pet death can help explain euthanasia.
A book about pet death can help explain euthanasia.

5. Take photos of the pet with your kids before it is too late. You may use these in a memorial ceremony. The photo will be cherished and help your kids to remember the pet.

6. Let kids help with a memorial ceremony. They can make a scrapbook, draw a picture or write a poem. They can help plant a flower or tree in honor of the pet. Share memories and tell them how lucky the family was to have such a good pet, and what a good life the pet had. Include kids in a discussion of how to honor the pet by contributing to a shelter, dog park, veterinary school or other animal-related cause.

“]Take a portrait to remember the pet.[/caption]

7. Tell the child’s teacher and caregivers what is going on.  Grief causes added stress that can affect behavior and concentration.

8. An age-appropriate book about pet death about a pet dying can be a great tool. Friends may give a card or small gift as a momento (charm for a bracelet, same staffed animal, book) to show their sympathy.

A small gift that represents is a thoughful gesture of sympathy.
A small gift or a pet book is a thoughtful gesture of sympathy.

9.  Children must go through the same stages of grief as adults. Listen. Empathize. Be patient. Plan playdates with friends or relatives who have gone through pet grief.

10. Your child may want to get a new pet right away.  A kitten or puppy requires energy and emotional commitment. Wait until the entire family is ready.

Related posts: How to Donate Your Pet’s Body to a Veterinary School

How to Cope with the Death of a Pet

Molly’s Legacy

The above photos show my two kids with our beloved Dalmatian, Molly, who died three years ago, and our labradoodle puppy we got about a year later. Please let me know if you find these tips helpful, or if you have other tips to share. Thanks!

Pet Clothing

Molly’s Legacy

Molly’s Legacy . . .
Our Experience with the Willed Body Program for Veterinary Education

When Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona decided to add a school of veterinary medicine, I was thrilled.  Not because I wanted to become a veterinarian.  But because as WesternU’s director of publications, I could use my own very photogenic dog as a model for promotional materials.

I had long used children of employees in photo shoots for PR materials about the WesternU’s other programs (osteopathy, physician assistant, physical therapy, and pharmacy).  But at that time I had no children, at least not human ones.  This would allow me to feature my beautiful Dalmatian, Molly Marie.

Sure enough, we did a photo shoot featuring Molly and a few other employees’ dogs with the new dean,  Shirley Johnston.  My spotted sweetheart appeared in magazine articles and brochures about the school.  I was so proud.

Our puppy in the WesternU View magazine
Our puppy in the WesternU View magazine

Molly also enjoyed a taste of fame when she because the first dog featured on the “Friends of the Claremont POOCH Park”  t-shirt and stationery.  Molly’s dad and I were among those who first lobbied the city and helped raised money for a dog park.  I did the graphic design for the group’s stationery and t-shirts.  John served as first POOCH Park “president.”  We still have the “golden” poop scooper presented to the group by then-mayor Al Liega when the park was dedicated.  Many shirts with Molly’s image were sold to raise money for the park’s fencing.

T-shirt design for the new Claremont POOCH Park group
T-shirt design for Claremont POOCH Park group

(I’ve been asked if these shirts are still available. None of vintage screenprinted are left. But I put the design up on Zazzle, so you can still get the original design. Below is a link.)

Molly even appeared in the LA Times. When the film  “101 Dalmatians” came out, I wrote an article  about Disney’s unwillingness to do public service about the responsibilities of owning this particular breed.  It ran with a photo of us in the Calendar section.

So Molly has had a bit of fame.  She is 13 and half now, and no longer the beauty she once was. The ridges of her spine stand out on her back. Her hind legs collapse. Her ears, once so soft and perfectly spotted, now feel crinkled and stiff, the result of hematomas that did not heal despite surgery. Her brown eyes are still outlined with gorgeous black “eyeliner” spots, but they have lost their brightness. Her fur is thinning.  At least her nose is still wonderfully heart-shaped, the result of serendipitously placed spots.

There are hundreds of miles on Molly’s paws. We took her everywhere: Pomona’s College’s quad; the big field at Scripps; Vista Elementary school; the Claremont and Upland dog parks; Thompson Creek Trail; the Claremont Wilderness Park; June Vail Park (at night, of course, because technically dogs are not allowed); the trails in Mt. Baldy; and dog beach in Huntington Beach (her favorite spot).

Molly at Huntington Beach's "dog beach."
Molly at Huntington Beach

Our dear Molly suffers from a number of geriatric problems. We have made the tough decision to have her put down so she will suffer the ravages of old age no longer.  We have also decided to will her body to  WesternU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the school she helped promote a few years ago.

Because the college emphasizes a humanistic approach, it does not accept cadavers from shelters.  Instead it has a willed body program similar to that of medical schools.  Now Molly’s legacy will live on in a new way: in knowledge gained by a veterinary student who will read her chart and dissect her body to learn how to mend other dogs. Eventually, her remains will be cremated and spread at sea.

Of course, Molly’s most important legacy of all will be to our family.   We loved her.  And she gave love and loyalty back the way I think only canines can.

Written by Kim Peasley.  This article was published in our local newspaper, the Claremont Courier.

Click here for more information on WesternU’s Willed Deceased Animals for Veterinary Education (WAVE) program. Other veterinary schools may have programs as well.

Related posts:

How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet

How to Donate a Pet’s Body to a Veterinary School

How to Help Kids Say Goodbye to a Pet

When you donate a body you are asked to give the pet’s medical charts as well.  I included this article and a photo collage (below) so that the veterinary student who learned from her body could gain an understanding of her life as well. Click on any image to see a larger version.

This photo collage was included with her charts
This collage was included with her charts

Pet Clothing

How to Cope with the Loss of a Pet

Molly growing up with our daughter. Molly is ages 4, 10, and 13.
Our Dalmatian, Molly, growing up with our daughter. Molly is ages 4, 10, and 13.

Pets are part of the family. Yet pets live shorter lives than the humans. We watch them age and die sooner than other family members.

The bond between human and animal companions is forged by love, joy, trust and loyalty. Real grief is to be expected when death breaks the connection.  How does one cope?

People in mourning after the death of a dog, cat or other pet experience conflicting feelings. You will likely go through stages of grief when any loved one dies.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

The whole family will be under stress. Some may be able to move to acceptance faster than others. Be patient with those who need time. Do not belittle them or ask them to “just get over it.”

Paying tribute to your companion can help the family gain closure. Have a memorial ceremony. Share memories. Say a toast. Light a candle. Assemble a scrapbook. Write an essay and share it. Frame a photo and put it in a place of honor. You may want to treasure a keepsake, such a collar or tag. (I keep these in my jewelry box.)  Plant a plant, tree or flower. (We planted a bulb that flowers in the spring in remembrance of our Dalmatian.)

Take positive action in your pet’s name. Make a contribution to a shelter, dog park, veterinary school or other animal-related cause.

Avoid isolation. Friends who have been through this experience will understand your need to talk.  Avoid those who think of pets as “just animals.” Today people do send pet sympathy cards or flowers.

Do not feel guilty if you made the tough decision to have your pet euthanized. Do not let others judge you negatively. Helping your animal die is a loving action. Be proud of your courage in taking it.

Be honest and open with your kids. This may be a opportunity to teach them a healthy understanding about death. Get them an age-appropriate pet grief book. Be patient. Listen. They may be traumatized emotionally and even physically. They may lash out or be unable to concentrate. Inform their teacher about the death. Let children participate in any memorial.  An art project or a poem will help them express feelings.

Older people sometimes have the toughest time mourning the loss of a pet. Check in so they do not feel alone.

Be sensitive to remaining pets who may be confused or grieving as well. Try to keep to their routine as much as possible. Give them extra attention.

Do not adopt a new pet right away. Although you will always miss the deceased animal, you will eventually accept his or her death.  At that point you will be ready to consider getting another pet.  A kitten or puppy requires energy and emotional commitment. Wait until the whole family is ready.

Know that others have gone on to accept their pet’s death, and you will too in time. Your veterinarian may be able to direct you to grief counseling if you need it.

Our companion animals impart lessons about the most important things in life: patience, responsibility, commitment, communication, fun, loyalty, respect and love. Years from now, certain sights, sounds or smells may trigger a memory of your beloved dog or cat. But these moments will make you smile, not cry.  You will appreciate how much your pet enriched your life. And you will know that even in death, he or she was giving you a gift: the lesson of how to accept mortality and cope with loss of something that we hold dear.

Related post: How to Help Kids Say Goodbye to a Pet,

Related post: How to Donate Your Pet’s Body to a Veterinary School.

If you live in Southern California you may want to consider donating your pet’s body to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences.  As part of its reverence-for-life philosophy it does not accept cadavers from shelters. Click here for more information on their Willed Deceased Animals for Veterinary Education (WAVE) program. Read about our experience donating Molly’s body to WesternU and Molly’s legacy.



For my birthday, my sister painted  Molly and our cat Brownie as angels.
For my birthday, my sister painted Molly and our cat Brownie as angels.

Here’s some links to books that may help you mourn a pet.

Rescuing Sprite: A Dog Lover’s Story of Joy and Anguish

My Dog, Chloe: Grieving the Loss of a Man’s Best Friend

The Memorial Service & The Grieving Guide (2 Disc Set)

Everything for a DogPaw Prints in Heaven?: Christians and Pet Loss

Honey the Rock Hound: A Puppy Dies A Family Mourns

you can find more links to books about pet death here