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How to Say Goodbye to the Best Dog Ever

Kipper Kisses <3

Helping your kids through the loss of a family pet

Two months ago, our family had to do the hardest thing that any family has to do – say goodbye to our dog.

Kipper had been a part of our family for over 10 years. We got her as a little golden ball of fluff when she was only a couple months old. My youngest daughter was two and got to grow up with her.

“I remember she walked right up to me,” my daughter liked to say. “She chose us.”

She repeated the same story while we stood in the room at the vet’s office to say our goodbyes, clutching her hand in that same golden fluff.

Just a little ball of fluff

Kipper’s health declined suddenly. One day she was her normal rowdy self – running in circles, jumping onto the bed before we got a chance to get under the covers. She was always down for a game of “shake the hell out of the toy and throw it in the air.”

Then a few things started happening.

How did we get here?

First, it was an episode of dizziness. She was running in circles in the living room before she stopped suddenly and fell over. She couldn’t keep herself upright. Our first thought was that she got herself dizzy. She wasn’t as young as she used to be and just got herself too worked up.

A few weeks later, it happened again. We tried to keep her from getting too wound up at playtime, thinking she maybe had some inner ear stuff going on. Then, she started having trouble getting up on the bed. Even jumping onto the couch was a struggle.

We made an appointment with the vet. We were thinking her age was catching up to her. Maybe something with her ears, and possibly arthritis or inflammation was settling in.

The vet clinic did an examination and didn’t see that anything neurological was going on. So, they gave us a list (including prices) of what the next steps were in diagnosing our sweet girl when we were ready (mentally and financially) to get it figured out.

As she didn’t get any better, we took her back a few weeks later and did bloodwork and x-rays. No arthritis or inflammation showed up, so we went home and waited for the blood test results to see if there were any answers there. They prescribed an anti-inflammatory for her to take.

It happened fast

The next day, the vet’s office called with the results and said everything looked normal aside from her blood glucose, which was low. They recommended bringing her in to have it checked again.

Fifteen minutes later, Kipper had a seizure. I called the vet and was told to bring her in immediately.

They determined that she likely had a pancreatic tumor that was causing her body to produce too much insulin. That means low blood sugar. This wasn’t something that would be treatable. Not without surgery or other cancer treatments, which would only give her a little more time.

The hard decision to say goodbye

When we got the prognosis, my husband and I sat with the information for a while. I remember sitting there in shock. How is it time to make this decision?

But we knew that the right thing to do would be to keep our sweet girl from suffering. She had three more seizures at the vet’s office, and I know she was so scared. We couldn’t put her through so many procedures – surgery, medications, chemo – for only a little extra time with her. Because what would that time really look like? Our fun, rambunctious, crazy sweet girl would spend all of her time in a stupor, in pain.

We made the decision to put her to sleep. I don’t think I’ve cried so much in a very long time.

He left me at the office to go get our daughters so they could say goodbye.

Don’t be afraid to let them say goodbye in their own way

I am so thankful that my husband broke the news to the girls before bringing them to the vet’s office. I needed that hour alone before they got there just to be able to get myself under control. It was time to put my heartbreak aside so we could handle theirs.

We explained what was going on, and why it was the right decision, and made sure they understood what was going to happen.

The veterinarian explained every step of the procedure to them so that there were no surprises. I’m proud of how well they handled it. It was hard to hear, but it was important for them to get the information directly from the doctor.

Then they brought our sweet girl into the room with us. She was on a blanket with an IV already in her arm. She had been sedated and given some medication to ensure she didn’t have another seizure while we were with her.

We each took turns looking into her eyes so she could see us and know we loved her. No one’s hands left her so she knew we were all around her. Our youngest asked if she could take a few pictures. And yes, even a selfie.

It might seem like a weird request, but we knew it would comfort her to have “one last picture” with the dog who had been a sister to her as she grew up.

The vet gave us as much time as we needed to say goodbye to Kipper. We called him back into the room when we were ready. Again, he explained what each syringe had in it and what it would do. They warned us that her eyes may stay open and she may move a little after her heart stops, but that it was normal.

When the moment came, our hands stayed on her the whole time. She knew she wasn’t alone.

Let them talk about it

I really think that the best way to move past grief is to be able to talk about it. Don’t tiptoe around and get nervous anytime someone mentions their name. Don’t hide their belongings.

The day after we had to say goodbye, our youngest daughter set up a sort of shrine for Kipper. It’s in the spot by the window where she always sat so she could bark at everything going on outside. It has her bed, her favorite toys, her Christmas sweater, and her collar. When the box with her ashes was brought home, we placed it there too.

It’s been almost three months now and the shrine is still there. No one is ready to put it away. It’s a comfort having her close by.

How to comfort them when they are dealing with pet loss

You’ll know what the right thing is for comforting your kids. It can change depending on their age, so look for things that might help whether they’re a young child or a teenager.

There are books like “The Invisible Leash” by Patrice Karsh, or “The Rainbow Bridge” by Adrian Raeside which can help make it easier to talk about to your children.

You can also get them some sort of memorial to have in their room like this angel and dog statue, or a windchime or memorial stone for the garden.

Kipper could spend all day in the window

When is it the right time to get a new pet?

It’s been almost three months and our youngest daughter has already begun dropping hints. She wants another dog in the house. She subtly sent photos from the local animal shelter of cute puppies, and YouTube videos of funny dogs.

But for now, we’re not ready. It was so hard to say goodbye and we’re not ready to welcome a new fur baby just yet. Until then, we will keep an eye on those shelter posts and remember our best girl Kipper.

*Originally posted to Jessica’s blog Mess and Memories

Author: Jessica Neff is a mom, writer, photographer, born-again baker and failed housekeeper. She’s living the doublewide dream as a reporter down in Texas with her fiancé and two daughters. Jessica is also the Market Director for Cool Moms of Dallas-Fort.



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