As kids growing up all my parents ever bought were Springer Spaniel dogs. Through the course of my childhood there was Luke, Sherlock, and Watson. After I moved away for college (my younger siblings were still at home) my parents bought their first pound puppy they named Kelly, followed by another pure bread Spaniel who they never spayed as they intended to breed her. As with a lot of things, they never got around to doing that. Molly, the dog, is now eleven years old.
When my parents moved to DC in January they left the dog with my grandmother. My kids love Molly and would spend hours making her a bed, getting her food, and playing with her over the years. About two months ago, my grandmother's neighbor's pit bull broke down the neighbors fence and molested poor Molly, not once but twice.
The past few weeks she's been miserable, constantly licking her stomach, lactating, and showing all the typical signs of pregnancy. My parents were in town for my daughter's birthday and took her to the vet. The worst was confirmed: she's pregnant, however in all likelihood giving birth to the puppies would kill her and more likely than not the pups would not survive either, due to a variety of factors and conditions with Molly, her age and size being two of them.
Anyway, this has been very upsetting to all involved, my parents especially as my mom and brother have to take her in for surgery tomorrow. It is a possibility that Molly will not survive the surgery. While certainly sad, I worry about having to tell my daughter. Kelly, my parents other dog, died not long ago and our daughter was very upset about that. Her fish just died and she recently started asking a lot of questions about Michael Jackson* dying. She obviously pays much closer attention to the conversations my husband and I have than I ever imagined. While I am honest with her, I also don't want her worrying or thinking that everyone who gets old or sick dies.
What is your experience with explaining death to young children?
*On a funnier note, my daughter asked me today if Michael Jackson was both a girl and a boy. I asked her why she thought that and she said, "Because he sings like a girl. Like this...yee, hee and he also kinda looks like one" and then mimicked his high pitched squeal (for lack of a better word).