This week has been hard for my husband and me. We had to euthanize our dog, Harry, who was in a lot of pain and eaten up with cancer. Harry is our first dog we got as a married couple – he actually came to us a couple months before our wedding. He was a great companion through so much. He was a smart dog, a good dog. He wasn’t “just a dog”, nor was he content to be a dog (for those who knew Harry, you know how true this is). He was my fierce protector whenever my husband was away – especially during deployment. I am so grateful that God gave us our amazing canine companion.
I understand that people who aren’t animal lovers or dog lovers may see the grief as silly and something we just need to get over. However, for those of us who are animal lovers & pet owners, dealing with the loss of a pet is very much like losing a family member. This can be especially hard for kids.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times that kids have asked for prayers for their pets. Maybe it’s silly, but pets are animals, which are also part of God’s creation. There was a reason God told Noah to put 2 of every animal on the ark. In some of Jesus’ parables he mentions dogs getting crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Many times in Scripture dogs, specifically, are mentioned as metaphors for unholy people. However, there are a number of verses that speak about animals, in general.
I believe that we, as humans, are made in the image of God. We have the ability to think & make choices. Animals don’t have that capacity. But, I believe they are still creations of God. We need to treat them as such.
Grief is never easy. Even if we know the end is coming. People will go through the various stages of grief when a pet dies. This something to keep in mind when ministering to kids & youth.
For many of them, the death of a pet will be their first experience with death/loss. As I’m grieving Harry’s death, I’ve appreciated all the words of condolence and the prayers from family and friends. I’ve appreciated being able to talk, openly, about our 9 years with Harry. I’ve appreciated the hugs and people allowing me to openly cry, and the hugs while I cry. Knowing what I’ve appreciated about being treated during this time has given me a little perspective on how to treat kids/youth if/when they go through a loss of a pet. However, I understand that kids/youth also need to be handled more gently.
Just as we go through the stages of grief when a loved one passes, kids will experience the stages of grief at the loss of a pet. They may not know how to handle their emotions, which will require some extra grace and patience.
I wish I felt better equipped or versed on how to handle this from a Scriptural perspective. As I’ve been struggling through the grief, I’ve done a Google search about the loss of a pet when I found an article from CBN which gave some comfort for me. While we don’t entirely know what/who will be in heaven until we get there, it gives me great comfort and peace to think that Harry is up in heaven playing frisbee with Jesus and chasing all the squirrels. There’s the comfort of The Rainbow Bridge poem. If these things, in addition to reading Scripture, bring me some peace and comfort at the age of 35, I’d guess they would do the same for a kid.
If ever you have to help a kid grieve the loss of a pet, please take care to pray for them, treat them with grace & patience (they might act out from anger in the grieving process), and just love on them all the more. Dealing with loss really stinks. I hate to see children in grief. I wish I could take their pain away, but instead I can pray for them and listen to them and let them cry. I hope that you’ll do that too.