Guiding a Child Through Pet Loss
Our son Brandon, age 11, was blessed with a wonderful dog, Tasha. Returning from a walk last week, Brandon let go of Tasha’s leash to allow her to run up to the housetheir usual routine. For the first time, Tasha instead ran excitedly in the road. Brandon watched as his love was crushed by a large, speeding vehicle, and then dragged five miles.
My son has been crying day and night. He says that he cannot shake the vision of the accident. Tasha was a gentle, loving, obedient dog whom Brandon turned to every time he felt sad. A hit-and-run charge was filed against the driver, but never an “I’m sorry” was heard. Brandon copes with ADHD, and now this tragic accident has compounded his emotions. What can we do to lessen his tears? Would you recommend getting another dog?
Curtis, I am so sorry your son is going through this, and that your family has lost a wonderful dog.
It is so hard to watch a young person feel such grief. Unfortunately, the kind of loss Brandon experienced is the hardest from which to recover. It was violent, sudden and unexpected, and it is natural for him to feel anger with both himself and Tasha (for running into the road). The good news is that the loss of a pet is a chance for the family to show how it works together to get through crises.
Young people are resilient, and Brandon already has demonstrated that he can cope with extra challenge in his life. I am sure you are consulting with his doctor regarding any signs that his griefwhich is completely normal, tears and allhas become a depression or anxiety disorder.
Another dog is completely appropriate. Ideally, it is good to wait at least one month so that your son has time to recover from Tasha's absence. Too soon, and the new pet will have a hard time living up to the relationship he had with Tasha. Also, we prefer to not send the message to children that important attachments and relationship are immediately replaceable. If possible, check out dogs at your local shelter. That will give Brandon a chance to see how much of a connection he’s capable of feeling with a new dog, even if you don't adopt right then.