As many of you, my childhood has been marked by its fair share of family pets passing away. As I got older, although I never got accustomed to the loss (as one never truly does), I was better equipped to deal with it, because I had an understanding of death overall. When you are 5 or 6 however, death is a tricky subject, often too abstract to understand. If you are a parent, you may have had the difficult task of telling your child that your pet had passed away; not an easy conversation to have.
There is obviously no right or wrong way to do this: every family is different, every child understands difficult matters in their own way, and more importantly, every parent will have their own view on how they chose to handle the situation. So instead of telling you what should or shouldn’t be done, we have asked some staff members to share with you their own experiences (good and bad) of being either a child, a parent or a vet in this situation. We would also like for you to share your own experiences, so that any parent out there finding themselves in a similar situation and at a loss as to how to handle it may find some help in reading this post.
D.V, Social Media Manager: “Our family’s German Shepherd, Gipsy, came to pass when I was 5 years old. All that was said to me was that she had ‘left’. Seeing my dad crying (he never had in front of me before) and a stranger coming in (the vet) coupled with the news that our dog, as I understood it, had left the house, was challenging to comprehend for my 5-year-old brain. It’s hard to tell if my parents made the right choice by not telling me (maybe I was indeed too young to understand) but it did teach me that whether you tell your children or not, they do pick up on emotions and feelings which can stick with them for a very long time afterwards.’
F.B, Customer Care Manager: “I had two rabbits when I was about 6 or 7. They both went missing one day and my parents told me that they had given them to a man, met the previous day, who owned a rabbit farm. They said they simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give our rabbits such a good life and encouraged me that this was the right choice. I totally agreed and went on believing this until I was 22…often laughing at others who believed similar lies from their own parents.”
E.F, Veterinarian: “I once had to go and euthanise a cat at someone’s house while the kids were at school. The owners requested that we do the injection without shaving the leg and then leave the cat on the porch in a sleeping position so the kids would think it had died naturally. Although I felt it was maybe slightly peculiar a request, I understood that it meant not having to explain why we had to put the cat to sleep, as this is often very hard to comprehend when you are a child and parents/vets end up being the ‘bad guys’.”
H.P, SQP/Product specialist: “I had a hamster named toffee, as he was a creamy toffee colour. He died of old age and my mum thought she would replace him while I was at school, and thought I wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately, Toffee’s replacement was a female, brown and white and, clearly, I noticed. Nevertheless, I loved her all the same.”
J.L, Digital Content Administrator: “I was 14 when my dog died (hit by a car), and my parents explained to me what happened, without any metaphor. It was the first “drama” of my life, but I think it helped me thinking about death. 6 months later my granddad passed away and I feel somehow that it did help me deal with the situation as a result.”
We hope you found those anecdotes useful or insightful, but we would like to hear from your own experience on the matter, so make sure to share them with us below!
Andrew and the Blog team