Breaking Sad News to a Child
My son, David, is wheelchair-bound due to spina bifida and has been inseparable from his service dog, Brownie, for 6 years. How do I tell my son that Brownie has a tumor on her spine?
You cannot control the outcome of a life-threatening illness, but you can manage its impact so that your son is strengthened by this loss. As the parent of a special needs child, you already have the experience and skills to cope with this very sad event. The key lies in understanding the situation from David's point of view. Your son needs to believe that you did everything you could to save his dog's life.
Should the time come for euthanasia, David should participate in making the decision and then be guided through his grieving process. Your son is a good candidate for another service dog and will probably have many over his lifetime. He will attach more readily to the new dog if he can thoroughly grieve for Brownie.