Learning opportunities through a pets’ death…

Last Sunday, my mum’s dog, Riley, had to be put down. After a collapse and subsequent ultrasounds, he was found to have cancer all through his body, despite appearing healthy.

This was an incredibly sad time for my parents and myself. Riley had been a beautiful dog and was wonderful with all the grandkids.

But it was also a great opportunity for learning for the kids. They could see that Mum and Nana were upset and so they were able to talk about feelings and emotions and ways to confort those around you.

Most important of all (I think), was that they had their first brush with death. Much better for this first experience with death to occur in a pet and one that did not live with them. I remember hearing Dr. Chris Brown, the TV vet, discussing this very issue and saying that it is best to be honest with kids so that they can start to understand the very complex concept of dying.

Megan seemed to have some idea of death. When asked if she knew what “dead” meant, she said she couldn’t play with Riley anymore. Her creche were discussing pets at the time, so perhaps this had been brought up then.

When we went to visit Nana and Grandpa, Grandpa said Riley was “gone” and so Alex though he had run away and we needed to look for him. Grandpa took the kids to see where Riley was buried, but Alex still didn’t understand. Megan knew he was under all the dirt but Alex wanted to see him and tried to look under the clumps of soil.

I think it will take some time for Alex (and Megan to some degree) to understand the idea of death, and possibly lots of visits to the back of Nana and Grandpa’s garden to visit Riley’s grave. And hopefully the topic won’t come up again for any reason for quite some time.


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