I think one of the hardest parts about childhood is when a pet dies. When my husband, Spencer, turned 13 years old he got a Springer/Basset Hound puppy. After an argument with his mom regarding what is an "ok" name for a dog, (he wanted Wadlo and his mom told him he should give him a real name like Spot. Spence threw a brief hissy fit (from what I can imagine of him at 13) and said that, "Fine, I'll name him Spot." Spot was Spencer's dog but the greatest bond was between Spot and Spencer's dad. When it came time for Spence to move out, Spot stayed with them.
Over the years Spot became a regular at the Burger King drive-through, Super America, and anywhere else he could convince people to give him some yummy people food. He survived climbing up a tree, eating rat poison, eating way more chocolate than it would take to take out a normal dog, and managed to not be murdered or given away when he would eat several dozen Christmas cookies every year that my mother-in-law made to give away as gifts to local businesses. This dog dodged a lot of bullets. This spring Spot turned 16 years old, which for a large breed dog, is very very old.
Over the past few months Spot has been in a lot of pain, but the pain had been manageable with medication, and Spot carried on with his life with only the difficulties of being slow, sleepy, and with some degree of blindness/deafness. This past weekend, however, he took a turn for the worse and had been having a harder time. This afternoon he past away.
We had been preparing Sweet Pea for this day for a while, the last time a family pet died she took it very hard, sobbing everytime she saw a dog of that breed, and sobbing anytime she thought of this dog. So we had been talking to her about how old Spot was getting, how he's in pain, and that pretty soon it would be his time to die.
Just last week she told me that, "Pretty soon Spot is going to celebrate his last day alive, and then it will be his time to go." Little did I know at the time just how accurate those words were. When Spot died today, she was over at my in-law's (they live down the street) and was told, but didn't see his body. I wasn't there to see how she took the news, but she seemed very ok about it when she came home an hour later. Preparing her for this day had helped a lot.
Then I had to tell Babydoll. After talking about how Spot is very very old, and very very sick, and how when people get old and sick we have medicine that can make us better, but dogs can't have that kind of medicine (I just didn't want her to worry when she hears about relatives getting old or sick with a cold that they are just going to die). I told her that Spot died today, and his soul has gone to live in heaven with Chloe (the other family pet that she remembers dying). She was ok with that, she wasn't terribly upset, and she wants to see where he's buried. I think it helped telling her that Spot was in heaven running around with Chloe now and he feels better there.
The only thing is that, while I like the idea of our pets going to heaven, I don't really know if they do. Now if that's the case, then I just lied to my children about what happens to our beloved pets when they died, and will need to discuss it further when they are older and more capable of coping with such a loss, but until then it makes us all feel better to imagine Spot, and all our past beloved pets, running around among our deceased loved ones.
My question to you, if you have kids and have been in this situation, what did you tell your kids? If you do not have kids but remember when you were a child and lost a pet, what did your parents tell you? What do you believe happens to our pets when they die?