Our dog has had a near death experience. But now he’s back.
A couple of months ago we woke to find our beloved Pomeranian, Frankie collapsed and immobile. After 24 hours at the vet hospital there was no concrete diagnosis, he was not getting better, and the prognosis was grim. I took my kids in to visit him thinking that would lift his spirits. However, I was not thinking about how the kids would handle seeing him hooked up to tubes full of medicine and quivering in a kennel. I also was not prepared for the onslaught of questions that would come after leaving the vet hospital with my weeping six-year-old.
I dealt with the situation as best I could. “He’s just not feeling well and they’re trying to fix him up”, worked fairly well for the three-year-old. But when Miss six looked into my eyes, also welled with pools of tears, that answer was just not enough.
When we got home I sat her down and we talked through it. Most of our pets don’t live as long as we do. They’re born and need loving families to take care of them while they’re on the earth and that is our job. After one is gone another will be born in its place, and he will need a family, too.
I’m really not sure if I did that right.
The truth is, when we choose a pet for our kids, they will outlive it.
Here are some life expectancies for our more common family pets:
- Dogs – 14 years
- Cats – 12-18 years
- Goldfish – 5-10 years
- Hamster – 2 years
- Guinea Pig – 3 years
- Rabbit – 6-8 years
- Hermit Crab – 10 years
- Parakeet – 8 years
- Horse – 20-25 years
So let’s be a little prepared, shall we?
Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed. answers the question: What should I tell my children?
You are the best judge of how much information your children can handle about death and the loss of their pet. Don’t underestimate them, however. You may find that, by being honest with them about your pet’s loss, you may be able to address some fears and misperceptions they have about death.
Honesty is important. If you say the pet was “put to sleep,” make sure your children understand the difference between death and ordinary sleep. Never say the pet “went away,” or your child may wonder what he or she did to make it leave, and wait in anguish for its return.
That also makes it harder for a child to accept a new pet. Make it clear that the pet will not come back, but that it is happy and free of pain. Never assume a child is too young or too old to grieve. Never criticise a child for tears, or tell them to “be strong” or not to feel sad. Be honest about your own sorrow; don’t try to hide it, or children may feel required to hide their grief as well. Discuss the issue with the entire family, and give everyone a chance to work through their grief at their own pace.
As for Frankie, I believe we’ve experienced a miracle. One day, he was in liver failure and given no more than five months to live. He wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t wag his tail and he wasn’t barking, (that’s how we knew something was REALLY wrong!). During his four days in hospital the vets tried EVERYTHING, and could not figure out exactly what was causing his liver to fail thus, no idea how to fix him. We brought him home with a bag full of medicine and very little hope.
With all of my options exhausted I decided to ask for the prayers of our friends. And our friends asked for prayers from their friends. From Facebook, Ray Charles the Golden Retriever shouted out for prayers from his page followers and it received over 3,000 likes and 210 comments laden with well wishes.
Frankie started feeling better the next day.
Copyright © 2002 by Moira Allen Reprinted from The Pet Loss Support Page — www.pet-loss.net. If you’re grieving the loss of a pet, you’ll find more helpful tips in Moira Allen’s book, Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet, available from Amazon.com at www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1598584537