Back in 2001, when my family moved to Long Island, I was taken to an old lady’s house where I had the opportunity to pick out a kitten as my first official pet. I chose a kitten who had short white fur and black splotches all over. I have given her the stereotypical name that many pet owners can associate with, Kitty. I loved her, and she loved me. Eventually, as I grew, she got older and was diagnosed with an terminal illness. Kitty died in 2013.
During the time I had Kitty, the family adopted a female pitbull mix named Blondie. This pooch is the friendliest and laziest animal you can imagine. Since my cat’s death, Blondie has been having an undetectable illness that my family cannot afford to get diagnosed. As I visit my family, I notice her getting worse and I know the inevitable is coming soon.
After Kitty’s death, I isolated myself from everyone. There was few people I can turn to, and no one who can help me cope with the loss of my beloved pet. This is the first time I have ever encountered the death of someone who meant so much to me, however I think about children and wonder “what can they rely on?” Perhaps parents, but how do they relay the message to the child that death is inevitable or that their pet is in a better place?
Inspired by my own pets, I posted a list containing resources that will help parents find materials for a child who are dealing with the loss of a pet dog. I have categorized my selections into different sections that include picture books, nonfiction, DVDs, and ebooks. The age range of these materials are ideally for children within 5 – 8 years old, or kindergarten to the 3rd grade. Each resource title will be linked to the Port Jefferson Free Library’s catalog for availability status and rental.
By Cynthia Rylant
Published by Blue Sky Press
Awards, Honors & Prizes
- ABC Children’s Booksellers Choices Award, 1996 Picture Book
- Rylant, C. (1995). Dog Heaven. New York, NY: Blue Sky Press.
Newbery Medalist Cynthia Rylant writes a story about how God created Dog Heaven, where dogs who passed away visit and stay. From unending fields to run around and endless biscuits to eat, everything dogs love will be found in this sanctuary. Rylant’s picture book is great for reassuring children that their pet dog is in a better place with colorful and vibrant illustrations. Parents will be able to use this resource to have a theological discussion with their child about the afterlife.
By Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood
Published by Feiwel and Friends
Awards, Honors & Prizes
- Kate Greenaway Medal, 2010
- Prime Minister’s Literary Award, 2010 Children’s Fiction
- Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, 2009 Children’s Book
Wild, M. & Blackwood, F. (2009). Harry & Hopper. New York, NY: Feiwel and Friends.
Harry & Hopper is a memorable tale of a boy and his dog, love and loss. Harry met Hopper as a puppy, and since then they were inseparable. They played together and slept in the same bed. One day Harry father’s told him that there was an accident that killed Hopper. Devastated, Harry avoids everything that reminds him of his beloved pet dog. However Hopper returns, night after night, for his chance to say goodbye. This story is perfect for parents to help children cope with the loss with a loved one.
By Stephen Huneck
Published by Abram Books for Young Readers
Awards, Honors & Prizes:
- Parents’ Choice Award, 2014 Picture Book
Huneck, S. (2014). Sally goes to heaven. New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Sally Goes to Heaven is a book about an old dog who falls asleep, presumably dying, and waking up in heaven. From there she finds many amazing things to explore: a gigantic pile of socks, bushes that grow meatballs, Frisbees filling the sky, etc. Although she is sad to be separated from her family, Sally’s only wish is for her family to move on and adopt a new dog. Award-winning author, Stephen Huneck presents a story that some parents will appreciate when introducing the afterlife to their children.
By Barbara Walsh
Published by Candle Press
Awards, Honors & Prizes
- Lupine Award, 2011 Picture Book
- Maine Literary Award, 2012 Children’s Literature
- Nautilus Book Award, 2012 Children’s Picture Book Fiction
- Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award, 2011 Book
Walsh. B. (2011). Sammy in the sky. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Inspired by her family’s first dog, Barbara Walsh presents a heartfelt story about a girl who talks about the best hound dog in the entire world, her dog Sammy. This picture book illustrates the joyful moments between the girl and her dog as well as the anguish following the impending loss of her beloved pet when he was diagnosed with an untreatable illness. Acknowledging the death of pet is painful at first, but over time the girl find a way to cope, making her value the wonderful times she shared with Sammy. With vivid and beautiful paintings, this book can be read for a child who is expressing grief after the death of a family pet.
By Emma Chichester Clark
Published by Doubleday Book for Young Readers
Chichester Clark, E. (2003). Up in heaven. New York, NY: Doubleday Book for Young Readers.
Daisy is an old dog who is devoted to her human, a boy named Arthur. One night, she falls asleep and wakes up in heaven. As much as Daisy is happy now in heaven, she notices that Arthur is miserable without his faithful companion. Determined, she sends Arthur dreams to help let him know she is alright and that it is acceptable to move on. This lighthearted story is great for parents to read to children who are in the process of healing after losing a beloved pet dog.
By Fred Rogers
Published by Putman
Rogers, F. (1988). When a pet dies. New York, NY: Putnam.
From the star of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, television celebrity Fred Rogers creates a book to encourage family talk and explore the common emotions that a child may feel when a pet dies. His tone throughout the text is warm and reassuring. Roger explains the reality in having a pet and the inevitably of death with empathy. This book is wonderful for parents to take a caring approach to their child about handling this traumatic experience.
Released in 2013
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Allison Abbate
Burton, T. (Director) & Abbate, A. (Producer). (2013). Frankenweenie [DVD]. Burbank, CA: Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Inspired by the death of his beloved pet, Tim Burton creates a movie filled with whimsical adventure. Victor Frankenstein is a boy who loves his dog, Sparky. When Sparky died in an accident, Victor is in grief but later determined to do something no one has ever done before, to raise the dead. With the power of Science, he is able to bring his dog back to life. However when the secret of his dog’s resurrection is leaked, Victor will have to think a way from keeping everyone from finding out. This movie is delight and suitable for families or children who share a special bond with their pet.
Released in 2000
Directed by Jay Russell
Russell, J. (Director). (2000) My dog Skip [DVD]. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video.
Based on an autobiographical title of the same name, My Dog Skip is a heartfelt story that starts with an older Willie Morris who reminisce about his best friend and canine companion, Skip. The movie is set during the time Willie was a shy child, unable to make any friends. It was not until he received a puppy that the boy’s life has changed. Skip has enriched Willie’s life, helping him befriend other kids and even acquiring a girlfriend. The dog eventually passes away from old age, but remembered fondly by her owner. This film is to appeal to animal lovers, family, and children who can relate to a pet whom they loved dearly.
Released in 2004
Directed by Lyman Dayton and Sam Pillsbury
Produced by David Alexanian, Katy Wallin-Sandalis, Bob Yari, and William J. Immerman
Dayton, L. & Pillsbury, S. (Director). Alexanian, D., Wallin-Sandalis, K., Yari, B., & Immerman, W. J. (Producers). (2004). Where the red fern grows [DVD]. Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
This film follows the life of Billy Colman, a boy whose dream is to have his own coonhounds and make them the best hunting team in the community. His dogs, Dan and Little Ann, are inseparable as well as loyal to their young owner. The death of the dogs are depicted in a cautious and censored manner compared to the book. Children will be delighted by the lovable pair of dogs, watching the adventures unfold in this coming-of-age story.
By Hans Wilhelm
Published by Random House Children’s Books
Wilhelm, H. (2015). I’ll always love you [electronic resource eBook]. New York, NY: Random House Children’s Books.
This story presents the moments between a boy and his relationship with the family’s pet, Elfie. As the boy grew up, the dog became older and eventually died from old age. Wilhelm shows the importance of loving an animal, and expressing that love out loud. The boy does this every day with Elfie, and with whichever pet he will have in the future. Parents will be able to use this book to help children understand that although death is inevitable, love is eternal.
Charles A., C. (2003). PET LOSS IN DEATH-RELATED LITERATURE FOR CHILDREN. Omega: Journal Of Death & Dying, 48(4), 399-414.
Chitwood, D. (2016, April 8). Best Children’s Books about the Death of a Pet [Blog Post]. Living Montessori Now.
Clark, J. (2004). Where the Red Fern Grows. Variety, 24.
Kirkus. (2004,Februrary 15). Review of the book Up in Heaven, by E. Chichester Clark [Book]. Available from the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database: http://www.clcd.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/#/bookdetail/1/0/OknNJkmqJnLOJNlL/bdrtop
Kirkus. (2011, July 1). Review of the book Sammy in the sky, by B. Walsh [Book]. Available from the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database: http://www.clcd.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/#/bookdetail/1/0/QdqqIJHphLHJjOmL/bdrtop
Kirkus. (2004, Februrary 15). Review of the book Up in Heaven, by E. Chichester Clark [Book]. Available from the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database: http://www.clcd.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/#/bookdetail/1/0/OknNJkmqJnLOJNlL/bdrtop
Marantz, K. & Marantz, S. (n.d.) Review of the book Henry & Hopper, by M. Wild [Book]. Available from the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database: http://www.clcd.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/#/bookdetail/1/0/OfoPlgjsFNHrIMmm/bdrtop
McLean, T. J. (2012). Dawn of the Dead Pets. Animation, 26(8), 14-17.
Nichols, P. M. (2000, January 28). TAKING THE CHILDREN; Story of a Boy and His Dog, Or the Other Way Around. New York Times, p. 6. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=cuny_centraloff&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA121213734&asid=0cbcf8731b5fcc3a45bdad09f1b58809
Pet Loss Resources for Children. (2016). Veterinary Team Brief, 4(10), 26.
School Library Journal. (2014, April 15). Pet Picture Books. SLJ Spotlight. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2014/04/reviews/spotlight/pet-picture-books-slj-spotlight/
Zvirin, S. (1995, August). Review of the book Dog Heaven, by C. Rylant [Book]. Available from the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database: http://www.clcd.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/#/bookdetail/1/0/qhrKGkNmfshOHomm/bdrtop