Saying Goodbye To A Pet
Saying “Goodbye” to a beloved pet can be a difficult for children. Depending on the circumstances, whether the pet is given away or dies suddenly, children can have a range of responses. But parents can help the process of grieving and acceptance go easier for the child.
We have given away, and sold, many animals in the past. We used to live on a farm, and though we had lots of animals, some of them in particular were “extra special”. If an animal died suddenly, it was hard for the children, and for us parents, to deal with. Also, the children would always become quite attached to our bottle fed goats, calves, our horse, our dog, kittens, our beloved turkey, and special favorite chickens. Selling them or giving them away was a sad time for everyone. It has been 3 years since we said goodbye to our farm animals, and though the children have moved on for the most part, our whole family still grieves the loss from time to time.
We currently have dogs and a bunny rabbit. Having a pet to care for is a really good experience for the whole family. It teaches many life skills. It teaches responsibility. It also helps with character development. There is a lot about animal science, and life in general, that children can learn when it is hands on, and observations are daily and more real to everyday life. Having a pet to care for daily really helps children understand this much better.
About six months ago, we sold a year old puppy dog to someone who just happened by and asked if we would sell one of our dogs. The kids did not have time to process what was happening, and after the puppy was gone, it was very sad for the children. They grieved for weeks. In many ways it brought back the pain of saying goodbye to their animals on the farm. It was hardest on our oldest son, and for several days, he cried quite often over it. For the past year, he had walked the dog twice a day, fed it, watered it, and taught it to play fetch. It was special to him, and somewhere along the way it became “his” dog. Even though we kept in touch with the new dog owner, and got several updates on how the dog adjusted to his new family, it was still hard for my son to move beyond his grief.
I realized I did not handle this situation as well as I could have. I did not prepare the children for the emotions they would feel and go through. This sale happened fairly suddenly for him, even though they knew all along that we would sell the puppies, they had become attached and loved their dear pets, and needed more time to know who was buying the dog and have a chance to say goodbye ahead of time. So learning from experience, I decided I would go slower if we sold more puppies, and I would try to help the children process their feelings and information as much as they can ahead of time.
Our family recently made the decision to give away a beloved pet, our bunny rabbit. This could have been traumatic for the kids. Thank God for time, and for learning from past experiences. It went much better than when we sold the puppy dog.
We decided to give away our bunny rabbit for several reasons. First, we only had a small cage for the bunny rabbit. We kept it in the living room. And being in the living room, he was right in the middle of life everyday. The kids observed his habits, how he ate, drank, slept, pottied, etc. daily. The observed his feet, his movements, his curiosity, etc. daily too. He was a daily companion and soft and cuddly to pet his fur.
He was well cared for. They fed and watered him everyday.
He often needed his small cage cleaned, or it would make the living room smell unpleasant. (I am pregnant and the smell would sometimes just make me avoid the living room altogether, though it did not seem to bother the others).
When it was time to clean his cage, we would take him outside and let him hop around in a small dog fence. The kids would take turns getting in the pen with him and petting him. Then we would wash out his cage and re-bed it with new bedding, and bring it back inside.
Overtime, we came to the conclusion that we should find a new home for the bunny for several reasons. The cost of caring for the bunny, buying a constant supply of feed, hay, rabbit chews, and new bedding, was something we decided was not in our budget. Another factor for our decision was the small cage it lived in. We had hoped to buy or build the bunny a larger cage, and be able to keep the bunny outside, but that did not happen and we did not see it happening anytime soon.
Another local homeschool family was looking for a bunny rabbit to give their son for his birthday. They already had a huge multi-story pen outdoors just waiting for the right bunny to call it home. Their son is a teenager and wanted to raise rabbits. This seemed like a good place for our bunny to go and live and make another child, actually several children in their family, a good pet.
We discussed this with our kids for about two weeks while the other family processed also whether or not they wanted our bunny. When they made their decision that they wanted this rabbit for sure, our children were well informed of what was going to take place and had plenty of time to process the information.
On the day the other family was to pick up the rabbit, we took him outside and placed him in the small dog pen in the grass. Each of the children took turns climbing in the pen with him and holding him, petting him, and saying goodbye. No one was rushed. It was a slow process and the kids could take as long as they needed. Even three of our neighbor kids came over to say goodbye too.
Finally, when they were ready, they came out of
the pen and played with their neighbor friends until the other family arrived to take the rabbit home with them.
They said goodbye one more time, and it was over. They had time to process their emotions, and though it was sad, there were no surprises. Acceptance came much easier this time.
“Bye Bye Bunny.”
How do you help your child say goodbye to a beloved pet? Leave a comment below, thank you.
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Saying Goodbye To A Pet