Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dealing with Death: When Children Must Say Goodbye to Their Pets

Last night, I babysat for two wonderful children that I sit for regularly. Only, yesterday was different. You see, the family had just put down their beloved dog, and the children were distraught over the death of this dog, which had always been a part of their lives. The family warned me ahead of time about their loss, and gave me the opportunity to cancel, but we both agreed it might be a nice positive outlet for the children to have me come over. I was warned ahead of time the children might ask me to read them some books about pets dying, and I was prepared.

"Saying Goodbye to Lulu" was one of the books on death we read last night. This one really captures what it is like for a child to have their best fur friend die. The imagery used makes the story very easy to relate to. Realizing that one day the pain will go away, and the sadness will leave us, and we will be able to love a new dog in the future was a powerful message in this book. The story emphasizes that while we may love a new dog as much as we loved our dog that dies, no dog will ever replace our old dog. New dogs simply add more joy to our lives, but it is okay to not want a new dog right away. This was my favorite out of all of the books that we read last night.

I learned about death at a young age, as my own pets and animals on our farm would die, and each death was like a knife to my chest – the most painful event my little child self could ever imagine. It was always so hard on me - when I was 10 and put down my beloved cat, Tigger, I cried for two weeks straight. With these memories in hand, I felt prepared at least with sympathy for these children and their loss.

When I arrived at the home to babysit, I was immediately aware of the discussions going on. The four year old boy ran up and told me that his dog died. The seven year old girl showed me a card a neighborhood friend had made her, on the outside it read, “I’m sorry your dog died,” and the inside said, “It’s sad your dog is dead.” The cavalier way with which death and being dead was discussed was so unlike the way many adults approach death – referring to it as a “passing” or a “loss”. It was nice in a way to hear death being called exactly what it is. So often, children get confused with death and the terms we apply to it. As a child, I was very confused when I was told we were going to put a horse to sleep. I kept wondering when the horse would wake up, until my parents realized my confusion, and explained death to me.

When it came time for me to put the kiddos to bed they each selected a couple of story books that address the death of a pet. It was very hard not to cry through these books, for they truly are sad, especially when there are red, puffy-eyed children sitting in bed beside you. Despite the melancholy atmosphere, I found it fascinating that these children wanted to hear about death, and kept selecting more books for me to read. It was as though they truly related and gained a sense of understanding about the grief they felt, and the loss of Gracie’s life from these books. I would highly recommend The Forever Dog and Saying Goodbye to Lulu for any child that is grieving the death of a pet.

"The Forever Dog" was another book we read, and my second favorite. This book not only focuses on the death of a pet, but addresses the feelings of grief you might feel - like anger and sadness - when a pet dies. The illustrations and story are both easy to relate to, and give a slightly different perspective to death. This book concludes by explaining that memories spent with a pet will always live in our hearts, long after our dogs have died.

Like the way the children discussed death, dying and being dead with those exact words – the books did not sugar coat anything. They explained how “being put to sleep” is not sleeping, but is where the dog stops breathing, his heart stops beating, and all life leaves his body. The books also explained the grieving process through the ways the main characters reacted to the deaths of their pets. The loss of a pet is usually the first experience a child has with death, and if not the first experience, it is usually one with the most impact. To have that four legged friend you’ve played with your entire life, and seen on a daily basis, suddenly gone is very difficult to comprehend. Children often don’t realize that pets have a very different life span than humans, and this complicates matters. Through my research, I’ve learned the most important thing a parent can do to help their child through this terrible time is to be completely open and honest with the child. Using words like “euthanasia” that children do not understand will only complicate things, but explaining death in a very matter of fact way will make it easier for the child to grasp what is happening.

I wish that books like these had been available to me growing up. There are now so many books to chose from that address this touchy subject, and I think they really help children understand in a way that family discussions might not.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I know you have all been anxiously awaiting the results of the GIVEAWAY! Well, your wait is over, because we have a WINNER!!! Normally, I cut up little pieces of paper with numbers on them, and draw them out of a hat, because I'm a bit old school at times, but I've decided to embrace technology and use a random number generator for this giveaway.

Drum roll, pleaseee....

Courtesy of our winner is comment #17 "Central Bark Designs" over at "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of BACON!" will receive a leash rack, a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain, and a large bag of Dogma fresh baked treats! Please leave a comment with your e-mail address and I'll get in touch with you to arrange shipping! CONGRATS!!!

But, we aren't done yet! As a surprise, there will be two honorable mentions who also receive some Dogma treats...

comment #18 and comment #21 will be getting smaller bags of Dogma treats. JackDaddy and Whitney and the Preppy Puppy please comment with your email addresses!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010



I know, I know, I keep extending the giveaway deadline!!!

The official deadline will now be TOMORROW NIGHT at 10pm! The reason for the delay is I know that I packed the giveaway in tons of bubble-wrap, and put it in a box, but I haven't quite unpacked that box yet! I'm on the prowl for said giveaway box, and in the meantime, my lack of organization is YOUR GAIN!

If you commented on the giveaway and said you were "too late" that will count as an entry. If you haven't yet entered the giveaway, there is still time!!! Just click here and post your comments on this post!!!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Puppy Hunt Takes a Bad Turn

I've been trying to keep you all in the loop on my puppy hunt, and shared my trails and tribulations of the puppy search with you. Recently, I've been sharing my joy, anticipation, and excitement about a specific litter which I hoped would contain my first show puppy.

As you know, I am the second in line for a puppy, but I want a show quality puppy. Well, the mother delivered today, four female puppies, one was stilborn, so there are three healthy female puppies. At this age, there is no way of knowing which ones, if any, will be show quality - you have to wait for the puppies to grow quite a bit to do evaluations, and I am second or third in line (I forget) for a show puppy. If there aren't enough show quality puppies, I won't be getting one from this litter, which is a real possibility.

Please keep this litter in your thoughts and prayers. I've been wanting this for so long, and working so hard to obtain it. I know that whatever happens, happens for a reason... but I still really hope my show puppy is in this litter.

I'll keep you posted as the puppies age, and their potential is revealed.

On a happy note, I'm going to enter this giveaway over at Prissy and Preppy Flamingo! You should, too! Make sure to ENTER MY GIVEAWAY, too... I'm extending it a few more days!

Moving with Your Dog: My "Tail" of Doing Just That

I wish I had had my camera during the moving process! When I packed a large red suitcase and turned my back for a few seconds, Milly climbed right in to make sure I didn't forget her!

I haven't been the best about posting the past few weeks, because I was busy moving! There are a lot of reasons I decided to move from Arlington, VA (two stop lights to DC) to Falls Church, VA (entirely too many stop lights to DC). I knew it was time to move from the house I've lived in for the past 3 years when a large tree fell in my yard about four months ago, and my landlord left it there for weeks, and then left my roommates and I to do the clean up. The house I was living in also had a mold problem, which the landlord denied, and I did not want to bring my puppy into a home with mold. Finally, the last reason for the move was a desire to have more space and a spacious yard for Milly - at the old house, the "fenced in yard" was more like a fenced in patio with a grassy patch.

Milly has always been great at adjusting to new locations and is an excellent traveler, but she gets very anxious at the idea of moving. If she so much as sees me packing my Vera Bradley duffel bag she instantly becomes velcroed to my side. With this in mind, I took some precautions to make the move as easy and as stress free as possible on her.

Moving is always chaotic, and my move was no exception, because I have entirely too much stuff. Since Milly gets stressed just when I pack a suitcase, I worried packing an entire house would really take her over the edge. She notices even the smallest changes around the house, as many dogs do. My solution to this was to start packing early and pack slowly overtime, long before the big changes like furniture moving would take place. I started packing boxes about 6 weeks before the move, and let Milly sniff and watch the process. By making subtle changes, I was able to reduce the stress of moving on Milly.

Milly is on a strict schedule - she eats at a certain time, she goes out at a specific time, and she is walked at a set time. Throughout this schedule, I always mix in some car rides and trips to the park, as well as daily training that I incorporate into our everyday routine. I really believe in keeping animals on schedules and putting consistency into their lives, and throughout the moving process I made sure to keep Milly on her schedule. About 5 days before the big move I packed Milly's box of stuff, but left out her favorite toys, her leash, her dishes and place mats, and a few other accessories we use on a daily basis. Milly had a blast helping me pack her toys (she has entirely too many), because she got to rediscover some she didn't even know she had! Even though I had packed most of her belongings, I made sure throughout the moving process that I always stuck to her routine - even on the day of the move!

I would hate to ever lose Milly, she is microchipped, but I knew with the move people would be coming in and out of the house, and I didn't want to risk anything so I kept her ID tags on her at all times. She actually wears three ID tags - one with my parents address and phone number, one with my old address and cell phone number, and one with the new address and cell number. Up-to-date ID tags are critical when moving.

On the day of the move, I had a friend bring over her dog to play with Milly. We kept Evan (friend's dog) and Milly in my sunroom with the door propped open to the back yard, plenty of Kongs, toys, beds and water. I put a sign on the door in English and Spanish so movers, roommates, and friends would know not to open the door to the sunroom. This way, there was no risk of Milly slipping out while people were moving boxes and furniture.

I like to always be prepared, so I mapped out pet-friendly hotels near my new house in case for whatever reason, I could not move in on the scheduled move-in date. I also packed Milly's food and supplements in ziplock bags for about 4 days of meals - this way, they would be easy to get to with unpacking. To be on the safe side, I put Milly's medical records in my glove box. This was a great way to do it, and I'll make sure to use the same system in the future, especially if moving long distances.

I decided to keep Milly and Evan in the sunroom at the old house until everything was moved in to the new house. This way, I just had to fill a duffle bag with their supplies and go over to the new house. Naturally, I wanted to show Milly her new house and let her explore, but I fought this instinct to keep her safe. I found not having her there while the movers unloaded boxes and furniture really kept her safest. It wasn't until everyone stopped going in and out of the new house that Milly got to come over, and then I kept her in a room with the door closed and some toys while we unpacked. If she had gotten anxious in the room alone, I would have had someone sit with her and keep her company.

When I unpacked, I set everything up for Milly to maintain consistency. At the old house, she had her bed on the floor of my bedroom, and this is the same at the new house. She kept her toys in the living room at the old house, and this remains in the new house. Meals are served in the kitchen at the new house, just like they were at the old house. I even put her crate in the same place. This seemed to make the adjustment much easier for Milly.

Unpacking can be a long process, I'm still in that process, but I didn't let Milly explore the new house until everything was safely dog proofed. Half empty boxes can contain items that are dangerous to dogs (like cleaning supplies or baking chocolate), and might lead a dog to display destructive behavior. I also walked the perimeter of our new yard to ensure there were no holes in the new fence.

On our first morning in the new house, we were already back to the same routine. Having the ziplocked baggies of meals for the first few days really helped. I made sure we had the same yard play time schedule, and the same walking schedule. Milly seems to really enjoy walks through our new neighborhood, and I'm hoping to meet some of my new neighbors on our walks!

Moving is a huge change for everyone involved, dogs included! Until we are fully adjusted, Milly will remain on a leash, or supervised in our fenced in yard. Dogs have been known to try and find their way back to their old house after moving, because they don't understand what is going on.

I hope my moving experience teaches you something. It went much smoother than moves in the past, and Milly is loving the new house. We are now on 1/2 acre, and our back yard is ginormous! We have a beauitiful solarium attached to the kitchen, and this is Milly's favorite room - it overlooks the backyard, and she just sits there for hours watching the bunnies, squirrels, birds, and chipmunks out the large solarium windows.