Thursday, 4 October 2012

Is honesty the best policy?

Yesterday I had to break the news to my children that one of their favourite doggies in the world was going to that great big dog kennel in the sky.

My mother-in-laws dog was very old and in poor health which was rapidly getting worse so the kindest thing was to have her put to sleep. I didn't know how to approach this with my children but they needed to be told about it as they live with us and it was going to be pretty obvious that we were one dog down. 

I decided honest was the best policy, I really didn't want to lie to them by saying it had "gone away". We have a lot of pets here, so there's going to be a fair few animal deaths over the next few years. I feel it's important to tell them the truth, as gently as possible of course. I explained how poorly she was and that grandma was taking her to the vets tonight and she wouldn't be coming back. I had to elaborate a little as they asked a few questions but I tried to be as sensitive as I could.

My 6 year old daughter took it well but then she's never been an animal lover, but my 5 year old sons reaction was not one I had anticipated. He was devastated. That's putting mildly to be honest. He was heartbroken. Big heaving sobs commenced and it took me quite a while to calm him down. He loved that dog, big time. From the age of 6 months my son spent two days a week with his grandma and spent a fair bit of that time in the dogs bed! He's a nurturer and I believe he's going to truly miss her. I had mentioned perhaps going down to say goodbye but he was just inconsolable and I didn't want to upset my mother-in-law so I calmed him down and we distracted him with YouTube videos and he didn't mention it again.

This morning I was awoke by footsteps in the bedroom at 6.30am and there stood my little boy. "I think I'm ready to see her one last time now mummy" he uttered. My heart leapt into my stomach. Of course it was too late now, she'd gone but he didn't know this. I couldn't face the tears before school so I told him we'd talk about it later and he went off to read a book. I felt wretched. How can I tell him it's too late for goodbyes? 

It's now later, and it wasn't mentioned after school so I didn't bring it up but of course in the next few days it will rear its ugly head and I'm going to be ready with cuddles and chocolate buttons but I can't help wondering if I did the right thing by being honest. Should I have sugar-coated the pill to make it easier to swallow or is a pets death a life lesson that needs to be learned?

Who knows if I made the right decision. I thought I was doing the right thing. This parenting lark is damn tough sometimes.


  1. I think you did the right thing. One of my few vivid memories from being a small child is saying goodbye to our dog when she was going to be put down, and then sobbing when my dad came home again without her. But I know I would have felt just as upset, and additionally betrayed, if I had not been told in advance.

  2. You absolutely did the right thing. What's the alternative? You can't keep a story going about where the dog is for ever and ever. The death of pets here has always been traumatic but I believe it's an essential part of learning about life and life cycles. Poor little mite though. :(

  3. I remember my cat having to be put down when I was around 4 and I understood i would never see him again even if the complexities (sic) were beyond me at that age, however I am still glad i knew and got to say goodbye so you definately did the right thing, hoping that with my reply being so late that your son is ok x

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