Lessons From Star:
Dealing With The Loss of a Family Pet
by Valerie Zilinsky
Last Christmas, my husband convinced me that it was time to get our children a pet, and to let them learn all the valuable lessons that come along with that experience. It wasn't long before we were welcoming Lucky Star, a 3-month old puppy, into our family and into our hearts.
As my husband anticipated, our children learned quite a bit from having Star around. Our son learned the joys of cleaning up after a pet, and having to take the dog outside in all kinds of weather, day or night. Our daughter learned that she had to put her socks on in her bedroom, and never remove them anywhere near Star, or those socks would quickly become a chew-toy. Both kids learned to clean up their toys more quickly, so that they wouldn't become 'doggie toys'. Our daughter learned how sweet a puppy's kisses can be. Our son learned how a dog can be a boy's best friend when he is mad at the rest of the world. And both kids learned how much fun it is to play with their new "little sister".
But recently, they learned the most difficult lesson in pet ownership, when we had to tell them about the unexpected loss of our dog. Our son, 11 years old, has had a very hard time handling his grief. He has been expressing it in anger, although not directed at anyone in particular. Our 6 year old daughter, on the other hand, has turned to her faith in God and heaven, believing that she will be with Star again someday, and that her puppy is in a happy place. We helped to comfort both of them the best we could, but my husband and I also had to face our own feelings of loss.
Here is some recommended reading on helping children cope with the loss of a family pet:
* Rainbow Bridge
* Death Of A
* Pet Loss - Helping Your Child Cope
* Explaining Pet Loss To Children
* Pet Loss - Understanding Grief In Children
* For Every Dog An Angel
* Dog Heaven
Although we were all handling our grief in different ways, there was one thing that we were on the same page about... our home just wasn't the same anymore without a dog in it. So the kids and I have had the fun, yet difficult, task of trying to find another dog to bring into our home again. Now, a few weeks later, we haven't been successful yet, but we aren't giving up. I've learned a few lessons myself since we started this new search...
First, I found out the importance of not buying a pet from a "pet store". Rather than try to explain this myself, here are a few places you can visit if you'd like to know why you shouldn't give pet stores your business (be warned - these are heartbreaking, and may be graphic if you explore the sites at all):
Secondly, I never realized how many pets there are out there already without homes. Take one look at websites like
www.Petfinder.org and you'll see what I mean. There are tons of rescue groups (for example,
www.brewbeagles.org) and shelters (such as
www.MichiganHumane.org), with plenty of lonely animals looking for a family to love.
If you are looking to add a new pet to your family, here are a few articles that are worth reading:
* Looking for a dog?
* How To Pick A
* Pledge For New Dog Adopters
Although this past month has been very difficult for us, I would never change the fact that we became pet-owners, because the right pet can be like a good dose of medicine for a family that is stressed out from a hectic life. And the months of fun, happiness, cuddling, and wet puppy-dog kisses from our Star were well worth it. We will gladly take that journey again when we find the right dog for us.
In memory of...
9/10/2001 - 10/5/2002
Valerie Zilinsky is a mother of two and webmaster of http://www.RaisingOurKids.com, which provides articles on every stage of childhood as well as an active community area. Visit RaisingOurKids.com for more support on showing your kids that you love them everyday!
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