How my kids got over the death of our dog

Saying goodbye isn’t always easy, but a final farewell is the hardest. A beloved dog’s passing can be a child’s first experience of death, so he or she needs extra comforting. When your family pet dies, try these gentle ways to help your child cope with loss:

Saying goodbye

Telling children the truth when a pet companion dies can make understanding easier. “I explain what happened simply but honestly,” says Juliet Beynon, who grew up with dogs and always has two romping at home. Choose a safe spot and age-appropriate wording.

Express feelings

Encourage your kids to talk about how they feel. You can shed tears too and share a hug. “My daughter sees the dogs as members of our family,” says Juliet. “She fed, groomed and walked Woofie, which deepened their bond—and the sense of loss.”

Share memories

Plan a little memorial for your dog with family and friends and include your children’s ideas. Recall fond memories together. “Funny stories heal through laughter,” says Juliet. “Our dog loved wearing hats, bunny ears and an angel halo.” The family planted a tree in his honor.

Favorite things

Juliet also works with dogs at k9 Connection, which teaches teens to train shelter dogs for adoption. She suggests that kids share a favorite thing about their dog—loyalty, playfulness, affection. “Make that trait a part of you for a lasting memory.”


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Make a book together

Another tribute that kids can create for their dogs is a scrapbook to cherish their life's adventures forever. “My daughter drew a picture of our dog, collected photos and wrote a poem for "The Woofie Book,” explains Juliet.

Read a story

If your child is too young or can’t talk about your dog, “Try reading them a storybook about pet loss, such as The Forever Dog or The Rainbow Bridge,” suggests Juliet. Even Charlotte’s Web offers a fictional tale to help release grief.

Keep a memento

To keep a dog close to their heart, perhaps a keepsake collar or toy will work. “Having another dog at home helped soften the blow for my daughter,” says Juliet, adding, “Remind your child that they will know many pets in their lifetime.”

Letting go takes time

Don’t feel in a rush for a new pet. “Dogs are individuals and can’t be ‘replaced,’” notes Juliet. “Adopt your next dog with your kid as part of the process.” Encourage them to continue with sports, playing with friends and school to help them move on.

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