Two days later when Marlo went to check them as soon as she woke up she said Mars wasn't moving and she thought it was dead. It was. She cried.
We have had many pets die on our little farm before- mostly chooks, and goldfish but the death of animal that you hold and cuddle is different( I realise some people hold and cuddle their chooks, but we don't). When we have had fish that have died we have put them in our worm farm, this has fascinated Marlo - that the fish become worm food, so with that in mind we did the same with Mars.
We carried Mars down away from the house. We collected flowers on the way. We decided that we didn't want to put him in a hole because the animal that found him to eat should just be able to take him easily, and animals don't routinely bury their dead.
We laid him down and put flowers around him and between his paws. Marlo said "I wish I would have been able to watch you grow up Mars"
We both cried a little bit. Marlo wondered what animal would find him, I thought possibly a snake or goanna and that Mars would be a good meal for them and it would stop them having to kill an animal that was happily running around. Even though Marlo is scared of snakes she understands that this is how nature works. It's the circle of life. (Lion king reference)
She wanted to go and check Mars the next day, I explained their may be lots of insects over him and it might be a bit gross but she really wanted to, he was still here, the next day he was gone.
I remember the first time a goldfish died. I was shocked at how devastated she was, I think we can never guess how children will react to this stuff. She asked about the fish for months after, where was it now etc etc. When our first bunny Vinnie ran away after being scared by a neighbours dog, Marlo was devastated, I understood that, she had wanted a bunny for so long, she finally had one and then he was gone- yes, he was still alive, happily bouncing in the forest we thought, but still a loss. She said this is very sad because babies shouldn't die, I agree they shouldn't but sometimes they do.
I talked to a few friends about this who work as counsellors with children and they all agreed, the child needs to be included as much or as little as they want to and the death of a pet is the perfect opportunity to try to understand death. Answer all questions clearly and don't be ambiguous. I remember my friends little boy being quite frightened when he was told "Grandma is watching over you all the time." - although maybe other children would find this comforting. My rule of thumb is always - after anything big has happened- have a talk about it when it happens then a few days later ask them about it again, what are you thinking about that now? Do you have questions? Tell me how you understand it? You know yourself sometimes they are so confused about something that they haven't understood properly.
I would love to hear what others think about this. what happens when a pet dies at your place?