Kids' First: Death of First Pet

Kids' First: Death of First Pet
Dr. Phil talks to parents about handling the death of a child's first pet.
When Lynn and Kurt made the decision to put their sick dog Bubba to sleep, they thought they had prepared their 4-year-old daughter Hannah by letting her say goodbye and telling her he was going to heaven. Nine months later, Hannah is still grieving and keeps asking when Bubba is coming back. To make matters worse, their other dog, Thor, isn't doing well and needs to be put to sleep as well. Although putting Thor down is the most humane thing to do, Lynn and Kurt worry that losing two dogs in one year would be too much for Hannah to handle.

"I'm afraid that my husband and I didn't handle my daughter's first experience with losing a pet the way we should have," says Lynn. "And now we're faced with the same situation. What should we do?"
"First off, I want to commend you for stepping up and having the courage to deal with it in the way that you have," says Dr. Phil. "A lot of what you said may have gone over her head. It's absolutely predictable that up until about 5 years of age, a child's concept of death is not accurate. They actually believe the dog will come back ... The truth is, this is an opportunity for them to learn about loss in their life because that's coming."

Dr. Phil continues, "This other dog is on his last legs. You don't want the dog to suffer to meet your own needs when he doesn't have any quality of life. The fact that she can't comprehend all of it is actually helpful. She is protected from the full gravity of it. One thing that is very important is that you honor the dog's loss by having some sort of funeral or memorial service. As silly as that may sound, it really is a marker psychologically and emotionally to lay it to rest and get closure."