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How we said goodbye to our family pet

As I start to write this, I am sobbing because of the loss I know we are going to face – I just made the call to the veterinarian to put our 12-year-old dog, Charli, down. As I type, she is laying down beside my chair – shivering, barely able to get comfortable, noticeably in some pain. Here is how we said goodbye to our family pet.

Brian and I brought Charli home 12 years ago when it was just the two of us. We thought having a dog would be “good practice” before having kids. I think it was! We learned pretty quickly that being responsible for another living creature was ALOT of work. I wanted a lap dog and Brian wanted a bigger dog. He looked online and found some pictures of Westies and said, “I think this breed would be a good one for us!” He found a breeder in central PA and we scheduled a time to “look.” However, we both knew that if he took me to see any puppies, we were heading home with one!

When we got to the breeder that weekend, there were two females left. Charli crawled right into Brian’s lap. Her sister was trying to chew on wires and she was crazy. Brian said, “We will take this calm one!” Little did we know, she got pretty crazy when we got her home. Terriers are full of energy and life and Chari was NO different. I was working in Harrisburg, PA at the time so I traveled full-time for work. Charli lived with me in my corporate apartment most of the time. She used to chew on the carpet – one day I came home and she ripped up an entire section of carpet!
I remember being nervous about Charli when we got pregnant with Madilyn. I did the math and thought, “Wow, our kids are going to be tough ages when Charli gets older.”
Here we are.
Madilyn is 8 and Juliana is 5 and they are IN LOVE with this dog. So are Brian and I. Insert more and more sobbing tears as I type… 

For the last couple of months, Charli’s health has been declining. We recently moved so I do wonder if that transition was a stressor for her. She has tons and tons of skin issues. She chews her skin and paws until she breaks the skin. We have tried it all. She has been to the vet a number of times. We did rounds and rounds of antibiotics and steroids. I tried natural remedies. I ordered shampoos and creams and lotions online. I have given her Benadryl. I tried herbal remedies.
Nothing is working and finally, this week, I said “We are done. She needs to be in peace. She deserves it. We deserve it too.”
This morning, we walked downstairs and she was bleeding from a hot spot that she was chewing on and Madilyn started sobbing. Brian and I looked at each other. He forgot his coffee and came back to the house and I said to him, “This weekend.” He shook his head and took the girls to school.
I have been crying for days. I have been struggling with making this decision. I know in my heart that this is the right time to let her go but it is HARD. Even harder when kids are involved. However, this is life. Our job as parents is to teach our kids how to deal with these emotions. We should’t try to protect them from loss and sadness. We have to be honest with our kids and tell them the truth even though it hurts so bad.

Below are the ways we said goodbye to our sweet Charli:
1. We slowed life down and focused on her. Ironically, we are not doing many after school activities right now which was nice. We have had our evenings and weekends to focus on Charli and enjoy her last days. I took the time to think and reflect and pray to God that I am making the right decision. I sat outside a lot and looked at nature. I stopped and watched my girls be so tender with her. We sat on the porch and let Charli sit in the sun. I watched and really soaked in these moments.
2. We were honest with ourselves and with our kids. I told the kids the truth. I used words like “death” and “heaven” and “stopped breathing” instead of “going to sleep” or “going to a better place.” We have a great place right here. We have given Charli a pretty sweet life and I wanted to celebrate this with the kids. I did’t want the girls to think Charli is better somewhere else. The truth is, death is a part of life and we should celebrate it. I also wanted to let the girls experience the grief with death. This, unfortunately, will not be their last experience.
Amazon has a bunch of really cute books if that may be a help when talking to your kids. Click here to take a look.

3. We had an ice cream party! My girls wanted to give Charli an ice cream party so we did! Madilyn even wanted to give her sprinkles! We let her have lots and lots of peanut butter too. Juliana wanted to give her cheese and turkey too.

4. We gave the kids a few days to say goodbye. We didn’t rush the goodbyes. The girls had really sad moments where they would lay by Charli’s bed and cry. Then, some moments, it was if they needed a distraction and it was like they kinda forgot. Thinking back, I think this worked. It worked better for the kids compared to telling them the morning of the vet appointment…
5. We let the kids see us cry. Oh, did they see tears. I was angry too. They saw those emotions as well. Brian and I decided that the kids would go to school the day Charli went to heaven. We thought it was good for them to have a routine day. Brian went to work and my mom and I went to the vet with Charli. The end was so peaceful and Charli was ready to go. She ate even more peanut butter right before she passed and that is what she would have wanted. When I picked the girls up fro school, they asked about Charli and I said, “Yes, Charli died this morning but it was really peaceful and she didn’t hurt at all. Nona and I buried her. Her heart stopped and she stopped breathing at the doctor’s office. She got to have lots of peanut butter!” The girls had a bunch of questions and they wanted to see where she was buried. I think that gave them some closure as well. Again, we were really honest with them.

6. We plan to keep her memory alive. I plan to help the girls make scrapbooks with photos of our sweet girl. While they are young and they have the memories, I want to help them get them down on paper. We ordered a really adorable Westie statue that we are going to put in the yard.

7. We are going to eventually get another pet. We think the best way to show our love for our sweet Charli is to show love to another pet. Soon but right now, I am going to take a breather.
Dear Charli, thank you sweet girl for all the memories. Thanks for the laughs. Thanks for being so sweet to Madilyn and Juliana. Thanks for keeping me company at night and for letting us know when there was a deer or a squirrel close by. Thanks for enjoying peanut butter as much as I do. Thanks for showing us what loyalty really means. You will be missed. As Madilyn said the morning she said goodbye, “See you in heaven Charli. We love you!” 
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  1. I am so very sorry for your loss. Your girls are so fortunate that you were able to give them time to process their grief and understand what was happening. You were brave with them and showed them what it looks like to grieve. It’s important to help kids make transitions with dogs and you did a really great job. Sending hugs. (Grabbing a tissue…)

    1. Oh my goodness Michelle. Thank you SO much for your kind words. I really didn’t expect to be so overcome with grief but I sure am. Wow, they really are a member of our family. Hugs to you!

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