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How to explain having to put down 16 year old Shepherd.

  1. SavannahEve profile image85
    SavannahEveposted 7 years ago

    Hi all,

    I would deeply appreciate any advice given.  Our 16 year old Shepherd is about at the point where we will need to help him on his way.  He can barely walk and according to the vet, his heart is giving out.  He is in pain and tired and he has no will to live or eat or move.  If you know me, you know I've already asked him and he's done with this world and ready to sleep.  It is going to destroy my daughter.  She's been through other pet's deaths, but they died on their own and she understands that natural progression, even talks to them afterwards.   Do you think she should be with him? I'm having a vet come to the house.  Should her Dad take her somewhere while I'm having the vet put the dog down? 
    How do I prepare her for this?  I'm already a wreck just having to do this. 
    By the way, my daughter's 8 years old.   
    Thoughts?  (Kind ones please?)

    1. Shadesbreath profile image86
      Shadesbreathposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Be honest.  Humans grow and become stronger through the wisdom they gain in life.  The death of a pet, especially a real one like a dog, will teach them that they will go on after a crushing loss.  Losing dogs is preparation for losing people.  Why take that from her?

      However, I'm not sure I'd make a big production number out of it.  Just let the vet put the dog down. 

      I'm sorry for the sadness you and your family feel right now, but I really think kids are more capable of living their lives, which includes encounters with death, than adults tend to give them credit for.

      1. alternate poet profile image66
        alternate poetposted 7 years agoin reply to this

        Yes - I can agree with this.  I would say that you (the OP) are blinded by your own fears and emotions.  I think maybe you should go out and leave your husband and daughter to deal with it - and in the process they will learn how to cope with bereavement, sadness and gain a better understanding of the amazing thing that any lfe is.

        It is always better to face your fears.

      2. Misha profile image76
        Mishaposted 7 years agoin reply to this


    2. mythbuster profile image81
      mythbusterposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      No great advice for you, whatsoever, SavannahEve, because what our relationships are with our pets can be different for each human individual and each pet.

      I just wanted to say take care of yourself in all of this and hopefully your family members will also take care of themselves and find ways to cope with the grieving process. You each might find totally different ways to deal with this and what comforts one of you might not be a comfort for another.

      Personally, I think that what you've got planned for Monday is truly the most humane and loving thing you can offer for your pet at this time. Also, you don't have much time, right now, to do everything exactly right or to be sure and say things as perfectly as you want to with your daughter because you've got to ease the animal's suffering. Let this act of kindness happen on monday - don't fret about it - and you will have plenty of time for talking things through with your daughter in the weeks to come. At least in the weeks to come, something will have been done out of love, respect and for the dignity of your pet, even if there are some mixed up or hard feelings which follow on the parts of your family.

  2. Randy Godwin profile image91
    Randy Godwinposted 7 years ago

    So very hard to do!  I dread the thought of having to do the same for my little Jack Russell.  She's fine now but is getting along in years.  I don't have child to have to explain why to, but it's me I'm worried about this time.

    Having lived around animals on my farm all my life I've always been fairly inured to animal's deaths as a matter of course.  But this little dog has shown me there is more to an animal's life than I ever supposed. 

    But I tell myself Ally has had a wonderful life, with hundreds of acres to wander over and rabbits and squirrels to chase to her hearts content.  She is a notorious rattlesnake killer ( a hub about her is very popular in Indonesia) and is fearless to the bone.

    I won't try to tell you how to handle your situation, but children are very resilient in most cases.  There is no easy answer.  I wish I had one for you!

    1. habee profile image95
      habeeposted 7 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks, Randy. You know what I'm talking about!

      Savannah, if you explain it to your daughter and she wants to be with her pet in its final moments, I would allow it. It will provide her with closure and she'll better understand that her beloved dog did not suffer.

      1. Randy Godwin profile image91
        Randy Godwinposted 7 years agoin reply to this

        I know, Holle!  I'm trying to give snakes a better reputation!

  3. Lisa HW profile image77
    Lisa HWposted 7 years ago

    I think if it were me I'd talk about how the dog isn't at well and how "we need to be ready for if something happens, because he's has had a long life for a dog and we need to be ready, because he seems like he's getting very weak."   She'll probably have questions, and I think I'd keep the conversation focused on how dogs often only live about 14 years, and how lucky we are to have had him for this long.  I'd talk about how lucky he is to have had a family who loves him and takes good care of him.  I'd try not to be talking about it all the time - just talking about it some.  Whether she asks or not, I'd bring up how "more and more it seems like he may be getting closer to "his time" (or something like that).

    I'd mention that it's sad, and I know "if something happens" we'll all be sad, but it's better to know that he's showing signs of not getting any better ("and that's understandable because he's as old as he is").   Chances are she'll be upset just to hear this kind of talk, but I think getting some crying out of the way and giving it some thought may at least help her come to grips with the idea that he isn't going to be around forever.  I think when I talked about it I'd try to end the conversation by saying something like, "For now, we just need to keep loving him and keep trying to make him as comfortable as possible and not be thinking about it while he's still here."

    I'd think this would help prepare her (she can't be completely prepared anyway) without dwelling on "these are his last days".  (I had to prepare my three kids for losing not only pets but their three grandparents.  It isn't easy, but I think some kind of truth (and yet not "cold, hard, truth") helps.  There are sad things they need to deal with, but sometimes we can "edit" what we say, or give bad news in a way that helps prepare them, rather than just coming out of the blue and announcing something.  I think there's a chance she wouldn't quite believe what you're saying, but at least she'd have some "hint" and see you as being honest with her and trying to help prepare her.

    Here's where, I know, a lot of people would not agree with me; but if it were my child I wouldn't tell her that I was the one to make the decision about "when".   I'd tell her that the dog is really sick and I was taking him to the vet.  I'd say I'm really worried about him because he seems like he's in pain, the vet has already said his heart isn't good, and I'm not sure if the vet can help him.  (In other words, yes, I'd lie - at least at the time.)

    I think I'd just emphasize that I was very concerned that the vet couldn't help him this time.  Later, I'd tell her the vet hadn't been able to help him.  I probably wouldn't volunteer the rest of the information unless she asked.  If she asked on her own I'd probably say, "The vet couldn't help him and said he was in so much pain and would be in suffering if he were allowed to go on, he suggested we let him have something that would let him first go to sleep, and then "go", and not be in pain any more."

    Sometimes little kids kind of know something but don't want to ask and know for sure.  My five-year-old was an example of that when he kept asking me, over and over, in one conversation what a certain body part is for.  I kept offhandedly saying, "to ____" (referring to a body function).  He kept saying, "but is it for anything else?"  For awhile I said, "no - that's it."  My son kept asking, "not for anything at all?"  Finally, I just told him all the purposes of the particular body part.  He was horrified and said, "What'd you tell me that for?"  I said, "because you made me tell you!"  He said, "You shouldn't have told me."   hmm

    If she doesn't ask it may be because she suspects but isn't ready to know at the time.  That's why I wouldn't volunteer the most difficult aspect of the information without her asking.

    People don't always agree about these things, but I don't really think she know what's going to happen, or certain know what's happening at the moment it is.  I think her father should take the dog to the vet with the idea that he's really sick and her father has to concentrate on talking to the vet.  If you're sad in the meantime, you can tell her its because you're sad about how sick the dog seems to be (because the vet has told you he's not doing well, and now he seems to be worse than he was when the vet saw him).

    I'm an adult and wouldn't have wanted to know (if at all possible, and it was) when my brother had to "let his do go" at the vet's.  To this day, I don't know if my brother had thought it out (the dog had been sick for a long time, and my brother tried all kinds of the best vet care in the area) before he brought his dog.  He just showed up and announced the dog was gone.  I really would have found it unbearable to be thinking about what was going on. 

    I think it will be so sad for your daughter, but I think handling it the way I suggested (and I don't know if I'm right or wrong) might help (sort of).  Either way, it's going to be awful; and as you know, that's when you can be there to try to help her keep her mind off it as much possible.  Maybe afterward, and after the "announcement" has been made, would be the time to say, "We feel so sad.  Let's go to the ______________ to try to think about something else for the afternoon."  In the days following, maybe you could let her stay up late enough so you won't be lying there and thinking at bed time.

  4. earnestshub profile image87
    earnestshubposted 7 years ago

    I wish I could help. I have been through the loss of long term pets with children several times. It hurts. So sorry, I hope someone has found a better way than I have so far. smile

  5. SavannahEve profile image85
    SavannahEveposted 7 years ago

    Thanks so much all of you.  The vet is going to be here at my home on Monday evening while my daughter is at dance class.  I have been speaking to her off an on about how the dog is doing badly and the vet said he is really sick.  You have all given me wonderful ideas and thoughts, thank you.  Lisa, I think I won't tell her that we are helping him along, but just that I think his time on this Earth is coming to an end and that the Angels and God might help him not to be in pain anymore and that the Vet can't help him anymore.  Again, thanks so much for all your input.  This one is tough!  Having pets is a wonderful and love filled blessing, but this part really sucks!

    1. swapna123 profile image66
      swapna123posted 7 years agoin reply to this

      You may want to tell her about this before she goes off to her dance class.  It's alright if you don't tell her that you are helping him along, but you should tell her that her vet would be here and he may not be able to save him, and prepare her for the loss of her pet. Good Luck !