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View Full Version : How to explain a pet's death to a young child?



Hillside H Ranch
Oct. 30, 2009, 02:26 PM
Rough day here. Our 14 yr old Golden Retriever was just diagnosed with cancer. Extensive, extensive lung involvement, so no real treatment options. Keeping her happy and comfortable at this point, but probably looking at a few days to a few weeks. Most difficult for me is how to explain this to my 3 (almost 4) year old little girl. I tried to start laying the groundwork this morning, as I had a feeling that it was something bad. I told her that Dixie was very old and sick and that we might need to let her go to heaven so that she could feel better. My daughter looked at me and said " I don't want her to go to heaven, b/c when I want to kiss her I won't be able to". Very hard for me not to cry at that. How would you handle this situation/or how have you handled this?
Any advice greatly appreciated at this point...

moonriverfarm
Oct. 30, 2009, 02:31 PM
Hillside, the death of a pet is heartbreaking for everyone. The older we are the deeper it cuts. I think you are doing what you can to prepare your daughter. Maybe reading to her about the Rainbow Bridge will help. Hugs to you and your brave dog.

Alagirl
Oct. 30, 2009, 02:37 PM
Good start. But I trust that you kid is young enough to not be too traumatized by the events. Small kids are awesome that way.

I made the mistake of telling my son on the way to school about how his cat (a stray that had just decided to take up house with us) was very sick, but being 8 years old it had a bigger impact on him. But when the time finally came he was fine.

We can'r shield them from this, so I suppose going about it matter of fact is the best way to go.

BuddyRoo
Oct. 30, 2009, 02:44 PM
Got this question a lot when I worked at the veterinary hospital. I am not a parent and I'm sure you'll figure out what is best for your situation....

But one thing I'd mention is that telling a young kid, "Poopsie is sick and going to die" is a little scary because sometimes they start thinking that EVERYONE that gets sick (including them) is going to die.

One approach that has seemed to work well for that age group is something like,

"Sometimes, our pets get sick or have diseases that the doctors can't fix. The doctors try very hard and they usually can make our pets feel better. But our dog has a disease that the doctors can't fix this time. We have a little while longer to spend with pup, so what kinds of things would you like to do?"

Then, go pick up those paw print cast things or take pics, or go for a walk, or make a little book about the dog. Something active....

Again, not a pro at this, I don't have kids. But at that age, they seem to accept it better than we do as adults.

GoForAGallop
Oct. 30, 2009, 02:45 PM
I'm 20 years old, have outlived upwards of 30 animals or so. (We always have at least two dogs, five cats, horses, plus some other oddities) All but a few died of age-related illnesses, a few were hit by cars. Heartbreaking either way.

They'll be tears, and there's not a single thing you can do about it. DO NOT LIE TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT WHERE THE DOG IS GOING. Nothing makes me angrier than the parents who tell their children that the pet "went off to live on a farm" or other BS like that....it only ends up hurting the child in the end.

My parents were always blunt, but kind about it, much as you told your daughter. "Sweetie, Muffins was sick, and she went to heaven." We have a big hill on the property that is devoted just to the graves of animals that have passed, and my sister and I were always present at the burial of all the animals. My sister, a few years younger than me, has always pet the dead body a few times and been right there for the burial. I, even now, can't really touch the actual dead body, and I watch from a distance as it's buried. With my most recent pet passing, a cat with kidney disease, I knew when it was "his time" and brought him to the vet, and stayed with him in the room until my sister got there. Then I said my last goodbyes to him, and went and sat out on the front stoop. I wasn't comfortable staying with him; my sister desperately needed to be in the room when they put him down. Different people have different "levels of involvement", or what have you, of what they find "acceptable" when a pet is put down.

Being as she's so young, I'm not sure that I would let her into the room, although dogs and cats do go VERY peacefully. (As do most horses, for that matter, but there is a larger risk of a "struggle" with horses.) But I would let her be a part of the burial, if she wants to be. If she wants to watch from a window of the house, that's fine too.


AND GET THIS BOOK:
http://www.amazon.com/Dog-Heaven-Cynthia-Rylant/dp/0590417010/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256924640&sr=8-1

It is a beautiful story, beautifully illustrated, and appropriate for both children and adults alike. I keep a few copies on hand to give as sympathy gifts to those who've recently lost a pet. (And don't yet have it.) There's also a cat version, which is also beautiful.

Hillside H Ranch
Oct. 30, 2009, 03:15 PM
I really appreciate the advice guys; it helps to get my thoughts in order. It is a little different for us, as my husband is a vet and so our daughter is familiar (as much as she can be at her age) with the idea of pets being sick and not being able to be fixed (although she is having a hard time understanding why daddy can't fix Dixie). I have also reccomended certain books to clients with children who have lost a pet. I've just never had to deal with pet loss affecting a child myself. My daughter certainly understands, and is justifiably sad, that she won't be able to see/pet/play with and kiss Dixie anymore. I did think about taking pictures of the two together, so that when my daughter is sad she can "look at Dixie" and think about her, but I was worried it might be morbid.

SLW
Oct. 30, 2009, 03:58 PM
Taking pictures of them now is a wonderful idea and not morbid in the least. The "waiting" is so hard and I wish you well during this time of transition.

I've said much the same thing that BuddyRoo offered in my work at the vet clinic to children who were in the clinic when we had to let a horse or pet go.

Blinkers On
Oct. 30, 2009, 04:27 PM
The picture of them together is a really great idea!!!
I had to put my older dog down on the 20th. Cancer as well, but it was sort of a surprise that he had had a tumor of the size that I wouldn't put him thru chemo or surgery for... it was related to an infiltrative lypoma(?) he had had "removed" last year. Seems it had been more involved than we had thought at the time and had grown rapidly. The vet had said he might have two days left, so I put him down then and there. It was so quiet and peaceful and right. I would not have made a different decision.
I do have pictures and video I had taken of him this last yean and in the days prior to his passing. I look at all of it with a heavy heart, but I am so glad that I have so many wonderful memories of the best friend I could have asked for.
It is something I will treasure forever! As will your daughter treasure the pictures you take.
I have to say it is a tough one that your husband is a vet.. that throws a kink into the equation.. Daddy can't fix it... ugh.. not an enviable position. You have my thoughts and prayers that your daughter and you get thru this with flying colors! You have my sympaties in the fact that you are going to loose a great part of your family as I recently did. Hugs

Luckydonkey
Oct. 30, 2009, 04:27 PM
There is a childrens book called "The 10th good thing about Barney"- this is a wonderful book about a child dealing with the death of the family cat. I would read this book, and explain that your dog is very sick, and that medicine will not make her better, and that the dog will die like barney, and become part of the earth- like Barney.... And remember to make sure your child understands that it is ok to be sad. I am sorry you will be losing a member of your family.

lcw579
Oct. 30, 2009, 04:55 PM
Just be honest. Kids get it and often handle it better than you think. Definitely take some pictures so that she will have something to look at and kiss. I don't know how sick your dog looks but maybe a nice picture of the two of them in younger healthier days would be good to frame and put by her bed.

If she wants pictures of the last day, do that too. My girls are all older but on the day I took our old man cat to be put to sleep they all held him and had a picture taken with him. It made them feel better. I brought him home and that night we had his funeral. Very sad but it helped everybody get over his loss.

I'll also add that a new furry face is always a good way to fill that aching hole in your heart. :)

monstrpony
Oct. 30, 2009, 05:01 PM
A consolation for me when I am facing losing one is that there is another one out there who will benefit from the vacancy. I'm not just saying "get another one". But maybe try to give her a glimpse of the big picture of the pet world, and that there is an opportunity here to help another animal, and doing so will honor Dixie's passing.

So sorry for your impending loss.

rivenoak
Oct. 30, 2009, 05:34 PM
I've told my 4 yr old son that the various hounds have gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds. When he asks to see them, I tell him we will see them again some day, just not anytime soon.

He talks a lot about the one he knew best & often asks where "his Weppie" is. I just repeat the above and tell him that I miss her, too. He very much enjoys seeing the pictures of the two of them together.

We really did have to give away one of them & he still remarks that Hadrian went to live with another family. And he can talk about why, too.

When he's older, we will talk about what death is, but at this point, I don't feel he needs to understand the concept.

He also doesn't know that all those boxes on the kitchen windowsill are really the dogs' ashes.

deltawave
Oct. 30, 2009, 06:11 PM
The child will take her lead from you. If you're an emotional wreck, she will be, too. If you handle it with courage and dignity and emphasize that this is part of what we do for animals we love, she will get that also. Show her the feelings you want her to take from it. It doesn't have to be high drama and floods of tears. She doesn't know how to deal with death, but will take her cues from how YOU deal with it. :) Good luck, and sorry for your poor old doggie. I lost both my old retrievers a couple of years ago, with my son the same age. He handled it fine. I didn't let him witness the flat-out bawling I did as they both died in my lap; that's nothing a child that age needs to see, IMO, and I wanted to be able to lose it in private, just me and the vet. :sadsmile:

SharonA
Oct. 30, 2009, 06:35 PM
Borrow from The Lion King: Circle of life. At least, that's all I had the creativity to do, and it seems to make sense to my young children (and to me, for that matter). One child seems oblivious to the loss of several ancient dogs over the last couple of years, and the other still pipes up that he misses one dog or another, from time to time.

It's probably not bad for them to see that Mommy and Daddy are very sad and might cry, but yes, try to avoid curling up on the floor and wailing to high heaven (which yours truly did once the children, ages 5 and 6, were off to school). But the bottom line is that it sounds like you have given a wonderful life to this fine member of your family, and all things have to die someday. I think giving a wonderful life to one's pets and staying with the pet for that last "journey" is a great lesson to give young kids. I don't think being morbid or depressed enters into it, for them (just my own opinion).

twofatponies
Oct. 30, 2009, 06:35 PM
As a kid I always got a lot out of memorial/funeral activities. Putting some favorite toys or a little blanket in with the cat, planting some bulbs on the grave, choosing a pretty rock to go on top, etc. I think those kind of actitivites (as well as scrapbooks, drawings, etc. afterwards) can help a kid relate. After all, there will be, sadly, no escape from more losses throughout life. In a sense it teaches skills for dealing with death (human deaths too).

CB/TB
Oct. 30, 2009, 07:54 PM
Check out your library for a"When your pet dies" type of book geared for Children. There are several that my library has, but my brain is non-functioning at the moment and I can't think of one title!. Sorry for your impending loss/ It's not easy, no matter what your age.

elmerandharriet
Oct. 30, 2009, 08:45 PM
My parents told me that he went on a vacation.... just a really long one (i was like 10)

Thomas_1
Oct. 30, 2009, 09:03 PM
It's a sad time and I'm sorry to hear the bad news but you've handled it perfectly well. What a good innings she's had. A breed VERY close to my heart too. I've got 4 lying around my feet right now! And another couple elsewhere in the room!!!

Don't forget though at 4 they don't really totally get it.

My daughter got an 8 week old chocolate labrador puppy yesterday.

She lost her old boy last July - he was 13 and my grandsons are 7 & 8. They were sad of course. They've never known life without Bournville their old chocolate labrador. My daughter said something very similar to the boys before he'd gone and then said that he'd died. After he'd gone they came up to visit.

Truthfully it was my daughter who just needed a cuddle from mum and dad. She's 34. The boys said "Mummy's very sad about Bournville and we miss him but mummy is really sad" They then said "he's with Charlie" (their old cat that died 4 years ago. Seemingly though they'd forgotten that he'd even died till Tracey said that.

Now when the cat died I've got to confess to being quite amused by my grandsons thoughts. They became briefly quite fascinated by the whole death subject and asked Susan "How old are you" When she replied Laurie said "You'll be nearly dead then" and then he said "so how old is Grandad" and then he said "WOW how comes he's not dead"

Children are very robust though and at that age they're quite in the hear and now. The main thing is to try to not project what you're experiencing to them.

And trust me as a dad and grandad I know VERY well how hard that is.

Trrr-ot
Oct. 31, 2009, 12:11 AM
As a kid I always got a lot out of memorial/funeral activities. Putting some favorite toys or a little blanket in with the cat, planting some bulbs on the grave, choosing a pretty rock to go on top, etc. I think those kind of actitivites (as well as scrapbooks, drawings, etc. afterwards) can help a kid relate. After all, there will be, sadly, no escape from more losses throughout life. In a sense it teaches skills for dealing with death (human deaths too).


Yes. This.
My boys are not little bitty any more and we have buried a fair amount of pets over the years, but it still hurts.
Last fall, after a considerable amount of time spent medicating, our little Siamese fighting fish (Yes we were medicating a fish) succumbed. As fish go, he was a pretty cool, little guy. You would enter the room and notice him watching you from his big bowl. But we had done all we could and he still died.
That evening the boys selected a snack pack cereal box and we opened it length-wise and lined it with tissue. Patriot's limp, red body was gently placed within and the three of us carried it out to the small pond in our backyard. We said a prayer, lit the kleenex (and a small amt of wood firestarter) and pushed the little box out into the pond where it erupted in a burst of flame and our fish had a proper Viking funeral.
After the flames went out we stood in silence for a moment at the side of the pond. It was very cold outside and for a moment there were just no words.
Finally, we turned to go back in the house and my youngest son caught my arm and asked earnestly. "Can we do that to Grandma when she dies?"

Alagirl
Oct. 31, 2009, 12:17 AM
Finally, we turned to go back in the house and my youngest son caught my arm and asked earnestly. "Can we do that to Grandma when she dies?"

You gotta love them kids! :lol:

AKB
Oct. 31, 2009, 12:32 AM
I would not decide whether or not he should be present for the euthanasia just yet. Explain that Rover is having pain, and that the vet can give him medicine to stop the pain and help him go to heaven. Explain that you will all be very sad when Rover's spirit leaves and you bury Rover's body.

If your son chooses to be present during the euthanasia, I would make sure that an extra adult is present to take him out of the room if needed. One of my daughters was always present for euthanasias, births, and other crises, starting at age 3. The other daughter, even as a young adult, prefers to be as far as possible from anything potentially traumatic.

Sakura
Oct. 31, 2009, 12:35 AM
We had a bad run of luck with our chicks this year. My son, who's just four was delighted from the start with the little chicks... He would head out to the coop every day to check on his "baby chicks" (http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g278/Copperleaf/TristanYellowChick.jpg) . One morning we found the little yellow chick dead. Apparently she was under one of the perches when an adult chicken must have knocked it down somehow and he/she was crushed.

Of course my son had a million questions... Why? Where? How? I told him that God has a plan for each and every one of us... we are all sent here to teach and learn lessons from each other, and when our job is done we go back to Heaven to live with God. It was easy to tell he was pondering it, and just a few minutes later he said something to the effect of, the little chick's lesson must have been ~ to teach him that we should let our friends know how much we love them everyday because they may go to Heaven and we won't see them again for a long time~. It seemed like such an abstract thing for him to grasp, but there it was... from the mouth of babes so to speak.

IveGotRhythm
Oct. 31, 2009, 12:56 AM
There is a book called "Dog Heaven" (there is also a "Cat Heaven") that is the most uplifting book on pet death I have ever found. The author is Cynthia Rylant .

It is all about what fun dogs will have in heaven and how it is created just for them to wait for us.

It doesn't dwell on our greif but on how much fun our pets will have waiting for us to join them.

I can't reccommend it highly enough.

Best wishes for your situation and I am SO sorry for your loss- the only reason I know about this book is because I've been there.

GoForAGallop
Oct. 31, 2009, 08:44 AM
There is a book called "Dog Heaven" (there is also a "Cat Heaven") that is the most uplifting book on pet death I have ever found. The author is Cynthia Rylant .

It is all about what fun dogs will have in heaven and how it is created just for them to wait for us.

It doesn't dwell on our greif but on how much fun our pets will have waiting for us to join them.

I can't reccommend it highly enough.

Best wishes for your situation and I am SO sorry for your loss- the only reason I know about this book is because I've been there.

Yes yes yes. I recommended it on the first page, glad to know someone else has heard of it!

equineartworks
Oct. 31, 2009, 09:05 AM
Bluey wrote...

"Sometimes, our pets get sick or have diseases that the doctors can't fix. The doctors try very hard and they usually can make our pets feel better. But our dog has a disease that the doctors can't fix this time. We have a little while longer to spend with pup, so what kinds of things would you like to do?"

This is what we did at the hospital too. The only thing we changed was:

"Sometimes, things happen to our pets that the doctors can't fix. The doctors try very hard and they usually can make our pets feel better. They tried their best, but they can't fix buster. We have a little while longer to spend with buster, to show him how much we love him, so what kinds of things would you like to do?"

We remove anything like sick or disease from the words because then you don't traumatize the poor kid into thinking that if he gets a cold and gets sick the doctors might not be able to fix him. :sadsmile:

i have to share this with you because again, we don't think like kids. A GF of mine had to put down their sweet dog. She was young but had cancer. The kids were young but had a decent concept of death in that you die and are buried and they wanted the dog buried in their back yard. They helped choose the spot and GF's DH dug the grave after the kids went to bed. The dog was going to be euthanized while the kids were at school, then brought home for burial.

The one DD was is agony when she got home, just in such traumatized pain. She was inconsolable. Finally she opened up and said she was scared that her dog couldn't breath and that she would suffocate in the grave. She hadn't been told what euthanasia was, to her it was just a word. She didn't understand that her dog would be PTS then buried.

Little things...that is why it is so important not to isolate them from the event. They don't need to know ever detail, but they need to understand to the best of their ability. :sadsmile:

PalominoMorgan
Oct. 31, 2009, 09:17 AM
Didn't read all the responses but what about taking a new or favorite picture and having it turned in to a snuggly blanket. That way your little one can still "cuddle" with Dixie. If you google custom photo blankets there are a few options.

animaldoc
Oct. 31, 2009, 09:20 AM
We went through this recently with our oldest (3 almost 4).....we just talked about it using lots of the language suggested.

For weeks we got questions about death - are you going to die mommy (everyone dies, but not for a long time), am I going to die (not for a long time), etc.

RiverBendPol
Oct. 31, 2009, 10:07 AM
Mr. Badger's Parting Gifts is a wonderful book. My kids (31, 29, 25) still like to read it once in a while. There was a time when I had 6 copies of it and just passed it out to my friends in need.
How sad. I'm sorry for you.
http://www.amazon.com/Badgers-Parting-Gifts-Susan-Varley/dp/0688115187

Ben and Me
Oct. 31, 2009, 12:46 PM
you also may want to avoid using the phrase "went to sleep" or "put to sleep" as, from what Ive heard from several vets, that can scare the child into not wanting to fall asleep as they think they also might not wake up in the morning.

Hillside H Ranch
Oct. 31, 2009, 12:50 PM
Thanks again, you guys. You have made me laugh and cry. We did take some photos of the two of them together last night. Dixie doesn't "look" sick; in fact she is doing very well right now. She still wants to run and play with the dogs, and her appetite is back, but certainly if you know the dog you can tell that something isn't quite right. Anyway, the photos went well; my daughter got to choose where they were taken and what they would be doing (she wanted to have both her and Dixie jumping into a big pile of leaves, but we chose something a little easier :) ). You would think that at 30 years old and a lifetime of pets I wouldn't be so emotional about this, but I've always formed strong attachments to my animals. However, I don't cry about it in front of her (tear up, yes, but no sobbing) and I don't think she will be present for the euthanasia, when that time comes. My daughter already hates getting shots at the doctor, so I think seeing the dog get a "shot" and then everything that follows will be confusing. She has definitely been asking the death questions; why, when will we die, can I go to heave with Dixie, can we all go, etc. which are hard for me, but right now things are fine here. We are headed out to enjoy the beautiful day with all the dogs (there are 3 others in the household) and will make the most of it!

Blinkers On
Oct. 31, 2009, 12:55 PM
Didn't read all the responses but what about taking a new or favorite picture and having it turned in to a snuggly blanket. That way your little one can still "cuddle" with Dixie. If you google custom photo blankets there are a few options.

Oh I LOVE that idea

D Osborn
Oct. 31, 2009, 09:25 PM
Kids get more than we (adults) give them credit for- and you probably need to give yourself some credit for raising a sensible child, who will be fine.
Everyone who says be honest is correct, but appropriate for the age.
The GRCA (Golden retriever Club of America) has some books on their website-I think GRCA.org but not sure.
My students recently lost a friend from another school in a car accident, and we lost several in a fire in NC almost two years ago, and another in an accident at college. By far, the kids handled it better than the adults,as I am not sure they know how they are suppose to act. With the most recent one, one of my kids responded to my questions, with a "things happen you know? It sucks, but they happen."
By no means am I making light of this, as I too have a 13 year old golden at my feet, who slows down daily, then perks up:) I will be devastated, as he is part of me. But right now, I am doing " I hope I remember" when he ate the North Face Jacket, My riding boots, all the knobs off the volvo dash :eek:
and various other antics. BTW-when he does go, I have warned my friends that from that point on he WILL have been the perfect dog!
I just told someone that we are on the road to heart break the day we bring them home, but the ones that hurt the most often bring the most to our lives.
God love them and bless them.

Alagirl
Oct. 31, 2009, 09:55 PM
Didn't read all the responses but what about taking a new or favorite picture and having it turned in to a snuggly blanket. That way your little one can still "cuddle" with Dixie. If you google custom photo blankets there are a few options.

You can also have many photos put on fabric (printable sheets you get at a craft store) and turn them into a quilt.

MunchkinsMom
Oct. 31, 2009, 10:01 PM
My heart goes out to you today and in the days coming.

When my daughter was born, my beagle was 11 years old, and not getting any younger. As soon as my daughter was old enough to talk with us, (about age 2) I began to just matter of factly tell her that dogs do not live as long as people,and that someday Dusty would be very old and when the right time came, the vet would help Dusty go to heaven.

When my daughter was about 3 1/2, that day came. When I came home from the vets office alone, my daughter very matter of factly said "well, it was her time to go to heaven" and that was that. Or so I thought. . . about 6 months later, we were driving home from daycare and she asked me if we had a grave where we could go visit Dusty - well, dummy me had her cremated, and didn't have the ashes sent home to bury. So, when I said "no honey, we don't" she began to cry.

Because of this, I think it might be important to have a gravesite. I did tell my daught the next best thing, a week after Dusty passed, the vet sent us a lovely flowering plant, that we planted in the flower garden, and called it Dusty's Flower. So I told my daughter that we could go to see the flower, and think about Dusty there.

Watermark Farm
Nov. 1, 2009, 11:27 AM
I'm so sorry about your dog...

I have four children now age 8 to 16. We live on a small horse farm and sure have seen a lot of loss over the years. I find the best thing is to be as straight-up as their age allows about what is happening, without a lot of detail, ie, "Rover is very old and sick, and her body is wearing out. Soon her body will stop working and die, and her spirit will go to the Rainbow Bridge, and Heaven." Then talk about the Rainbow Bridge (kids like this visual, it's very helpful) and even draw a picture of it together.

Don't expect a lot of emotion from your daughter, she is so much in the here and now at that age.

It's very healthy for her to see you cry and have normal emotion about the loss of your dog. You simply explain "Mommy has had Rover for 14 years, and she will miss her very much." Don't try to be stoic or hide your emotion. Your daughter is learning SO much about the world through you right now, and this is yet another lesson. That said, also remember how in the present your daughter is, she won't be crying for days like you will be. I have cried many a tear in my closet!

As for euthanizing your dog, your daughter is too young to watch this (IMO), but what I used to do was have grandma come to our house, the kids would say goodbye, then go for a ride or walk with grandma while the vet came to our house to put the dog down. I explained to the kids that the vet had a special shot that would help the animal leave their body. Then they would come back to see the body (it really helps them understand). We would make sure they understand the dog has truly passed on, that the soul has gone to the Rainbow Bridge but the body is left behind, we do not want them to think the dog is "sleeping." It's nice for them to participate in the burial if you think they would benefit.

Overall, this is much much harder on you than your daughter. Good luck, and I'm so sorry!

Showbizz
Nov. 2, 2009, 05:30 PM
I've just dealt with this with my nearly 3 year old.

I told her what was happening and we spent a couple of days with our terminally ill kitty, giving her special attention. When the time came, I took my daughter to the vet with me and told her what would happen. I let her watch our dear cat get her injection and she got to see how peaceful it all was. We had previously decorated a box to take her home in (she and I colored pictures on it with crayons and markers). When we got home, she wanted to see her, so I let her. For about 45 minutes she petted on her, and then eventually got distracted and went on with life. There wasn't a single tear.

It was a great opportunity, as we've since lost another dear cat that I've had since college. She's familiar with the process and I think it taught her a great deal. Does she completely understand it? No, but she knows it's part of life, and that it's ultimately okay.

Good luck, and so sorry.

FatPalomino
Nov. 3, 2009, 12:22 AM
I couldn't find the exact quote but I once read something to the effect of:

A little boy acknowledges and accepts that his dog can only live to be 10. He says it's because we (people) spend our whole lives trying to learn to be kind, generous, loving, and have fun. Dogs are born knowing how to do all of that already and thats' why they don't have so long to live. I thought it was a really neat explanation, and so true.