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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Explaining death to children.

It was December of 1997 and my wife heard from her parents that the dog she had grown up with had to be euthanized as he had grown too old. She was very sad that day so I wanted to brighten her up and came with an idea. We adopted a six-weeks-old boy. He is very different in many ways than a one.

We adopted a male puppy (Sheltland Sheep breed) into our home. He was running around so much that we named him ‘Chase’. He was such a fun dog when he was young that every time I came home, he wanted to be touched and played with and when I didn’t he would stand on his hind limbs and pushes me with force with his forelimbs on my butt (probably that’s how dogs kick people). He maintained a ‘no fly zone’ above our backyard because every time he saw a plane flying over our backyard, he would go crazy and run around in circles till the plane goes out of vicinity. I can go on and on about him.

In 2001 and 2004 my girls came home. When we decided to relocate to India, we wanted to give him to someone that want to take him but in one attempt we learnt that he doesn’t want anyone else but our family. We decided to bring him with us to India so he traveled in the same plane with us for 20 hours to reach Bangalore. Girls saw him in the airport and were excited that we are going to be together again.

He adjusted himself much better to the heat than we had anticipated. It has been more two years now and all in all it has been more than 10 years since we adopted him. He has grown old and slowed down quite a bit. We suddenly noticed that he is peeing blood. In the town that we live in, there are some vets but not that good facilities so when we took him, they took an x-ray and said that he might be having stones. Now it is getting worse. He now dribbles even when he barks and he being an inside dog, making the house unhygienic.

A thought crossed my mind about euthanizing Chase. It was a flashback of 1997. When her father told my wife about her dog, she didn’t take it well and here I am having to tell my little girls and how do they take it? How am I to explain about euthanasia? Would I be seen as cruel and inhuman?

Do you have any advice or thoughts to help this dad?


Vinata Iyer said...

hi ruby this indeed is very sad situation well I found something while surfing maybe this could help you in explaining it to your girls.
A Dog's Purpose (from a 6-year-old)

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, 'I know why'.

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. He said, 'People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?'

The six-year-old continued, 'Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long'.

Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.

Ruby said...

Hi Vinata,

Thank you so much for this reply. It meant a lot to me. My buddy is so close to me that I am having a hard time. We used to play so much together that I can't believe that he is so old.

It is a comforting thought to know that animals have a shorter life because they already know how to be nice to people. My chase sure knows how to be nice to people.

Thanks again.