Love is love, and loss is loss, and the death of a beloved dog can weigh very heavily on your family. Although you would prefer your dog to slip away peacefully in the night, this is not always the case when your dog has been battling a serious illness. Your vet will not have made the recommendation for euthanasia lightly and would only suggest this when all other options have been exhausted. This allows your cherished pet to depart this world with dignity, and with their suffering decisively and respectfully brought to an end. Even when you've suspected that the end is near, it doesn't make the end any easier to deal with. And what about your kids? Young children might never have known a time without their friend and companion. How can you help your kids cope when your family dog has to be put to sleep?
Talking About Your Dog's Illness
It helps to talk about just how unwell your dog has been. Children are observant, and so it's not as though the decline in your dog's health will have gone unnoticed. You could mention that your dog's illness is making them unhappy and uncomfortable, and how it's best that the dog doesn't suffer. Tell them that the vet can give your dog an injection that will gently send them off to sleep and will put an end to their pain. Stress that this step is in your dog's best interests, which it certainly is. Whether or not you wish to elaborate about what happens after that, with what happens to your dog's soul after they've passed away, is a matter of personal belief.
To be there in the room when your dog passes away is going to be one of the most difficult things you'll ever experience. It's not mandatory, and yet you might want to be there to give your friend comfort in their final moments, as they gently slip away. Your children might also want to be there, but this is your call. Particularly young children might find the moment to be too traumatic, although older children might be able to better grasp the situation. At the very least, your children should be given the opportunity to visit their friend one last time, departing the examination room before the final moment.
A Celebration of Life
A departed family member should be honoured with a memorial service, and your dog certainly deserves one. This can be beneficial for your children (and for you) as part of the grieving process. It can be a backyard affair, and while burying a dog in a suburban backyard might not be practical, you could opt to have your dog cremated and then collect the ashes. These ashes could perhaps be buried in your backyard, with a tree planted over it to act as a memorial. Your children can be encouraged to share their memories of your dog, and other friends and family members could also be invited.
There's no easy way to say goodbye to a family member, even when that goodbye is in the dog's best interests. But this is a time to grieve the loss, as well as celebrate your dog's amazing impact on your lives. To learn more, contact your local vet.