My mom adventures in Fort Collins


Special Edition of Library Book Hoarder: Children’s Books that deal with Pet Loss

In my writing, I try to tell stories with a sense of humor. Parenting small children does lend itself to some hilarious situations. Given the light-tone of the blog, it seems awkward to write such a downer of a post, but I would really love to share the information that I learned recently when we lost our dog.

Beamer (2000-2013)

Beamer (2000-2013)

To say we “lost” Beamer is not entirely accurate. We had the very profound experience of helping our dear dog pass peacefully. It was an uncomfortable but necessary decision, as euthanasia for an animal nearly always is. He was 13 1/2 and his quality of life had deteriorated; he was blind, nearly deaf, partially immobile and occasionally incontinent. But despite his age and all of his obvious health concerns, this was still a very difficult decision.

In many ways, I felt fortunate that we had the time to say goodbye to our dear pal. After my husband and I made the decision, we had a week to enjoy our dog and treat him to one last camping trip and lots of table-scraps. When the time came, the folks at Raintree Animal Hospital made the process as nice as they could. The staff was exceptional and the exam room was prepared with dim lighting to lend itself to a calm and comfortable atmosphere. Yet, it was awful. Both of us grown-ups were devastated. It’s heart-breaking to lose a beloved member of your family.

Despite our own grief, we were deeply nervous about our girls, ages 6 and 3. My heart sank for them. How will the kids do? What will this loss do to them? There are some helpful ideas on how to deal with grief and loss in an age-appropriate way. The Argus Institute at Colorado State offers some great resources here, and the essence is use accurate and literal language (like “die” as opposed to “put to sleep”) and honor the significance of the loss.

My kids enjoy a good book, and that can be a great way to introduce a topic. Here are six books that I read with my kids to initiate a dialogue about the loss of our dog.

1. The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend by Stan & Jan Berenstain–This is a story of the loss of their goldfish, and it’s a very sweet way of approaching the whole topic of pet loss.

loseafriend

2. Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant–This book is a lovely account of the life that awaits dogs after they die; they run, eat well, have fun and God treasures them. I will issue a warning, though: If Heaven and God are not topics you’ve already introduced to your children, this book might be a bit complicated.

dogheaven

3. Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley–This book is definitely more about death and grief than pet-specific loss, but it’s such a well-told story. Badger is growing old and he knows he’ll soon go down the Long Tunnel. His friends learn of his death and spend time reflecting on many happy memories of Badger.

badgersparting

4. The Forever Dog by Bill Cochran–This book deals with the loss of a beloved pet from the perspective of the child as caretaker. For Mike, Corky is his dog, and he spends a great deal of his time training and caring for Corky. The two make a plan to be friends forever, but then Corky gets sick and dies. Mike’s mom is able to help him through his sadness.

foreverdog

5. Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas–This story is a tear-jerker, and I loved it. A little girl copes with the deteriorating health of her sweet dog Lulu, and is filled with sorrow upon her death. Ultimately, she mourns the loss, time passes and her wounds grow less painful but she will always have a special place in her heart for Lulu.

goodbyelulu

6. Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker–Of all the books that we read together, this one was my own favorite. Perhaps it was a bit long and more appropriate for older kids, but it was the only one that we read that spoke about euthanasia. This book is entirely about the last day that a family has with their beloved Golden Retriever before the dad takes the dog to the vet.

jasper

To be honest, the kids are doing quite well, though the loss still comes up everyday in different ways. The other day, my older daughter struck up a conversation with a dogowner at the park and shared that we had recently lost our dog. I was really glad that she was able to express herself and share this news in a way that was honest and open. In time, I’ve no doubt we’ll adopt another dog, but for now we’re just living life and remembering the love we shared with this kind sweet dog.

All of the book jacket photos were copied from amazon.com. Please find any of these books at your local library.

If you have other suggested reading related to pet loss and children, I’d love to hear from you.

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2 Comments so far
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Did you ever read the Babysitters Club books growing up? Part of the book Kristy and the Snobs dealt with Kristy’s family getting their dog euthanized. It was very sad for me to read, but helpful, as not long after, when I was in the sixth grade, one of our cats was hit by a car, and the second one died of old age and grief 3 months later. Very sad time for me. Probably good that I’d been prepared by the BSC.

Comment by indiaindiana

Well, I did read a few BSC here and there, but that one doesn’t ring a bell. It’s not surprising that I don’t remember, though, due to the fact that the Kirk Cameron posters all over my walls were leaching proper cognition from my brain at the time. But thank you, Indiana, for another resource. And, on a serious note, sorry about your cats. That must have sucked, with or without any proper BSC preparation.

Comment by jaymers




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