When Children Lose a Pet

Saying goodbye to our dog was incredibly difficult - but incredibly beautiful thing at the same time.

Our sweet pup, Gizmo, had been with us for almost 8 years. He was a member of family - an integral part of our everyday lives. 

He came to us when he was 8 - re-homed from a family that could no longer care for him. It's really a very cool story, and I love how it ties directly into our homeschool journey, too. 

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about when children lose a pet - how we handle that, and things we have done since the loss of our pet that have helped all of us quite a bit. 

When Children Lose a Pet

Gizmo's Story

Eight years ago Anna had a dream come true - getting her very own dog!   In typical eight year old fashion she begged and begged for a dog.

And we kept saying "NO".

When Children Lose a Pet

At exactly this same time, we made the decision to take Anna out of school to homeschool her. I knew in my heart that getting a dog would be a great thing, but we wanted it to be a surprise for Anna.

We were lucky enough to find out about an eight year old Shih Tzu who needed a home.  I didn't tell Anna, and one evening a friend of mine brought his dog, Gizmo, to our house. He was just visiting the area and needed to bring the dog with him for dinner.

As we were visiting (and as Anna was LOVING this dog), my friend Andrew began to tell Anna that he was very sad about Gizmo. He wasn't going to be able to keep Gizmo any longer and was looking for a home for him.

He looked right at Anna and said, "Do YOU know anyone who could take care of him?"

Anna replied that of course she could, but she would need to ask her dad.  Turning to my husband, she asked him if we could PLEASE PLEASE keep Gizmo.

Much to her surprise, my husband didn't hesitate or flinch and just said, "Well, of course we could!" 

That was settled.  Andrew left GIzmo with us that very night, and as he drove tearfully out of our driveway, I think my eight year old was crying tears of joy.

Gizmo came to live with us and became a part of our family.

When Children Lose a Pet

Because of his small size, he was the perfect little lap dog. The kids enjoyed taking him places. He knew a lot of tricks (and oh, how he could SING on command!) and became their little sidekick.

Gizmo was read to many days, dressed up in crazy costumes on others, and spent many a snowy and rainy day curled up in someone's lap. 

In that first year of homeschooling he was Anna's ONE constant friend. It was a sweet, special relationship that I am positive God orchestrated to help us through a hard year.

When the kids did a room switch a couple of years ago, Anna's room became Grant's room. At that point in time Gizmo was getting old - his eyesight and hearing weren't so great - and he was very confused when they changed rooms.

From that day on he attached himself to Grant - sleeping in his bed and crying endlessly on the nights he would be away at a friend's spending the night because he missed him. 

Both of my kids had such a caring, sweet relationship with Gizmo. It really was heartwarming to witness.

Saying Goodbye to a Pet

Gizmo turned 15 last May.  He was getting very old - we knew a lot of his eyesight was gone, and he couldn't hear much of anything. 

We first noticed a sharp decline last fall. He started having a lot of trouble getting up our stairs. His back legs didn't work so well, and he amazingly had the strength in his front legs to pull himself up the stairs (when one of us wasn't around to carry him). 

I KNEW it was time to talk to the kids about what we should do when his back legs stopped working completely.  

It was obvious his quality of life had declined, and each day was a struggle for him. He whined when moving around and was only happy when he was curled up by himself - or snuggled close with one of the kids. 

We had gone to Florida for the Christmas holidays, and when we returned our dog sitter strongly suggested it was time to let Gizmo go.  I think I knew about a month before then that this was what we should do -- but it felt a little better to get confirmation from another person who knew and loved Gizmo.

When we told the kids, they were obviously very upset, but I know deep in their hearts they knew this was the humane thing to do for him.  (Still, I must admit it felt a bit like my husband and I were playing God - it was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make.) 

When Children Lose a Pet

I called our vet's office and talked to them about what we should do, and what the procedure would be. I made an appointment for the following day.  

The next 24 hours were somber, to say the least. We spent most of our time cuddling with Gizmo... alternating between tears and funny stories about him. I'm glad we had that day to say goodbye - I see it now as a tremendous gift that helped my children prepare to say goodbye.

I must say that the hidden blessing in all of this was my daughter discovering a strength that I don't think she realized she possessed.

Anna made the decision to come with me to the vet that day. Sweet Grant said he would rather stay at home, and I could understand that.  

Anna, however, felt she needed to be with Gizmo - and that HE needed HER, too.  She held our dog until the very end. I offered to take over for her, but in between her tears she held and loved her dog and was very brave.

I was so proud of her.  It was one of those moments where I realized I'm not the mom of a little girl anymore - I'm the mom of a beautiful and strong young lady.

It was a day I'm sure she won't forget - a day she grew up a lot and learned she can get through hard things and life will be OK.  We also all learned it's ok to be sad, too -- because we all moped around for the next several days very sad.

A few days after Gizmo passed we picked up his paw print from our vet's office. They do plaster cast paw prints when your dog passes away - it's such a nice remembrance of our sweet pup. We will put this with a scrapbook we've been working on for him, too.

It's been a month now since Gizmo left us, and the pain gets less and less each day, but whenever we see a new puppy or someone asks if we have a dog, some of that pain comes rushing back.

In the end, however, I'm so glad we had the chance to know and love Gizmo - and yes, even the experience of losing him.  That is what life is all about, and we need to teach our kids about the good and bad times - and how to get through them all with strength, grace, and a dependence on their faith.

This was just another step in the journey of parenthood - guiding our kids through the loss of a pet.  It was a step I'm so glad we could take - because if we wouldn't have lost Gizmo it would have meant we never would have had and loved him like we did - and THAT would have been even worse. 

Resources to Help With the Loss of a Pet

A sweet friend at church gave us the such a comforting book - I Will See You in Heaven.  We've been reading it aloud and learning a lot, and remembering Gizmo, too.

I also have Goodbye, Friend - that we will be reading next. 

I'd love to know about your pet -- feel free to share with me in the comments below.