One of the hard lessons of life is learning how to deal with death. One of the most common ways for children to learn this skill is through the demise of a beloved pet. My grandchildren experienced this when their beagle "Pete" had to be put to sleep.As an older dog, he was beginning to have a lot of pain and difficulty getting up or using stairs. When the vet said it wasn't going to get better, the sad decision was made.
I've found it interesting how each of the three children has come to terms with Pete's absence. The older one, almost 9, is the one most acutely aware of the loss, and the one who will remember Pete more clearly. He has shed some tears and now and then will bring up the subject, mostly to have the opportunity to talk about the dog, I believe.
The two year old has less understanding of what really transpired, so now and then she will ask, "Where's Petey Boy?" A calm answer such as, "He's not here right now," satisfies her curiosity.
The four year old has developed his own coping skill, and I believe his method is the one most comforting to the adults around the house, as well. He's taken a small plastic dish and put it in the spot where Pete's food bowls used to be. He also sometimes places his beloved stuffed dog "Puppy" at the bowl, so he can "eat." I haven't really discussed it with my daughter or son in-law, but when I'm there every day to take care of the children, it comforts me to know there's still a dog in the house. And I've been known to quietly reach down and pat that little puppy's head and say, "Good boy."