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Dealing with the Death of a Pet

You might also want to check out my post on Dealing with the Death of a Grandparent for other books to help your child.

Our family recently dealt with the death of one of our dogs and a beloved great-grandfather in the span of a couple weeks. We turned to books, of course, because we read every day. Reading brings you information, and if you have information, you can cope. Or at least you have more tools for coping if you have more information.

There are a lot of books that are specifically designed to help children cope with the death of an animal, but some may be too wordy, others too graphic, and still others that don’t help your specific child. These are books that helped our family, and I hope they help yours, too.

The first book we read after our dog needed to be euthanized was Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. It’s a classic, and deservedly so. Seeing the angel dogs running happily helped my girls sleep – they missed the dog they had grown up with. Dog Heaven is a beautiful book with soothing writing and vibrant illustrations. We’ve enjoyed so many of Cynthia Rylant’s books, I’m not surprised that we were comforted by her work.

We read several other books, such as A Dog Like Jack and The Accident, but a much simpler book captured my children. Sunny the Death of a Pet is an older book by Judith E. Greenberg and Helen H. Carey, with photographs by Barbara Kirk. The book follows a boy named Ken as his cocker spaniel (Sunny) starts to move slowly as she gets old. He takes her to the vet and finds out there isn’t anything that can be done because she is simply getting old. (This is what happened with us, which is a reason why this book touched us so much) The simple text and black and white pictures don’t distract from the emotion – how sad Ken is, and how sad the reader is when Sunny dies. My one complaint with this book (and several others) is that the child got another dog quickly – there are several situations when that won’t happen, and it would be nice if the story ended before the child got a new dog. However, I understand that a new dog will make the ending happy.

There are many other books available at your library or bookstore about death – I hope this will help you begin your search.

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