Friday, March 12, 2010

#33 Death of a Pet

Wow, this is a hard one. Our dog, Hoover, has been diagnosed with cancer and has weeks or a few months to live. He's older than either of our children, so this is a big deal. We're telling the boys tonight and will write a bucket list with them of things to do with Hoover before he goes. Ice cream and bacon will factor on this list.

Nick is very sensitive and I predict much drama from him (and me, actually). Jack, however, is a complete mystery to me. I have no idea what to expect from him. He's seen Marley and Me and seemed to understand it. Sort of.

So today's question is this: how did your autistic child/student/patient react to the death of a pet? What did you do that seemed to help in this situation? What advice do you have?

Thanks in advance!


Sharon (Stitches on Mars) said...

Hi Susan,
Although we lost kris's Mum 2 years ago, I am not sure how it has affected Liam(he was only 3). One thing I have noticed is that he seems to have more time for his Poppa now...they seem to have a connection I cannot explain.
i don't know if you've read "A friend called Henry", but this was an issue that came up in the latter part of the book. Perhaps it might help.
I think the only thing you can do is be honest about it and answer any questions the best you can. Its going to be a difficult time for you.
Perhaps a puppy can help ease the pain...I don't helped me and my older sons, but Kris blamed the puppy.
I wish you well
I wish I could help
Hugs, Sharon

Jill MacDonald said...

This is a beautiful book, which may help the healing process: "The Tenth Good Thing about Barney".

Canadian Kristin said...

My only experience was this: B wanted a frog. He really, really wanted a frog. We bought 3 frogs, B visited their little tank daily, watching them do their little froggy thing many times each day. Then one of three frogs died. I scooped him out, not one of my children noticed. The next froggy died. I scooped him out, not one of my children noticed. The third frog died (it was a bad week for frogs at our house) and I took the tank and frogs away but didn't say anything.

Frogs in a tank are not at all like a dog that you can run and play with. But this is our only experience that I could share.

B has not mentioned the frog or the missing tank at all. I think, for our guy, he's very much "in the moment" and doesn't usually retain the moment or much of the memory after the experience. It's kind of like life is a dream to him, and experiences aren't solid anyway. ?!?

Anonymous said...

Well, hi :) I just found you through your crafty blog via My Pink Mexico - and boy am I excited, since I have 2 boys with ASD.

The pet issue we have dealt with - in our case, Ben the Cat. We had a few days to prepare the boys that Ben was very sick, and going to die. The younger one, who really didn't care for the pets yet, was more interested in a specific time that Ben was going to die.

Our older son, Connor, was adamant that we would make him better. We decided (probably not in the best interests of poor Ben) to let him die at home rather than at the vet, simply to make sure that we didn't send the message that the vet kills pets. The vet is suspicious anyhow, in that pets go there & sometimes stay several days.

There were lots of tears after it happened - and lots of talking about Ben, to the point of having to leave class in tears quite a few times. We got a kitten about 3 weeks later. This was great, and he enjoyed the kitten, but he was still frequently upset for at least 3-4 months. It was about 18 months before he stopped talking about Ben being one of our cats..."and Ben, but he's dead" is how he was always added to the list. Now we just have a picture of Ben on the fridge, and he's mentioned once every few weeks or so. Connor was 9 when this all happened, btw. Also, we did not let the kids see Ben once he had died. We brought him to the vet quietly for cremation - although Riley (8) was highly indignant that he didn't get to see the dead body. Ugh.

I'm so sorry to hear that Hoover is sick - but I think the bucket list is a fantastic idea, and my suggestion since you do have time left with him, is to photograph all the special things. That way, if Jack reacts more than you think he may, you can make them up into a book, even showing them doing the same things with Hoover throughout their lives?


Susan Raihala said...

Thanks, Jessi, for your very helpful comment!

Holly said...

I don't know if it's too late, but for others reading this with the same situation, I'll chime in.
I don't have a child with autism, but I have little kids in general. We explained that our kitty was sick, and that when people or animals are VERY very old or VERY very sick (so they won't freak out about being everyday kind of sick and also won't tell grandma she's going to die, LOL) or have very very bad booboos, that they die. I explained that death means that their body is no longer working. That when a body does not work, it can't breathe or walk or talk/meow or eat or anything at all. That the part that made the animal/person special is now in heaven with Jesus, God, and angels (or however you view that spiritual part of it).
***I made sure that my pre-schooler and the other cat DID get to see and touch the dead body of the cat so that they would completely understand. Also, so that when we buried him, he would know that it was OK with Lucas (the dead cat) to do this, that it was a normal way of dealing with dead bodies, and he was not really there any more (now in heaven) and his body needed to be disposed of, and htis is how we do it. **This happening has also really helped with explaining death on Tv/movies, and with funerals, burials, and cremation. You just don't realize how much cremation is in movies until you have to explain to your 3 yr old what is going on. Ugh. (we talk about HOT and FIRE and's confusing. You get Q's like "why is Luke setting his father Darth Vader on Fire?"; and also in Lord of the Rings, etc. )
The cat's death has also really helped with other things he has now seen. Such as roadkill (drives home that safety lesson about cars, streets, looking both ways, and holding hands!!), other dead animals, his friends' pets who have died, and talking about other family members who have died.
My son also talked for months about it, explained to other people about death and related issues, lol. We buried our cat in the yard and planted a rose bush over him.
The photos are a great idea too :)