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Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet Paperback – July 25, 2006
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After Gary Kowalski, author and the minister of Burlington Vermont's Unitarian Universalist church, completed his new book, Goodbye, Friend, on dealing with losing your pet, his own elderly dog, Chinook, died. In his first book, The Souls of Animals, Kowalski wrote: "My own wise friend is my dog. He has deep knowledge to impart." Apparently, Chinook did his good work up until the end. Kowalski's new book is full of sound, compassionate advice to get you through the loss of your pet(s). Included are ideas for rituals and ceremonies, spiritual guidance and readings and poems to use for solace. The author's voice is a soothing one, not surprising for a minister whose job it is to be wise and reflective. The book also addresses animals' grieving; their life spans; their growth, illnesses and needs. These are similar to ours: need to eat, to exercise, to sleep, to have fun, to enjoy companionship and to expect routine. Kowalski includes advice on how to take care of yourself after the death of a pet and the importance of honesty when talking with children about this event. Kowalski's book is not only useful for healing when a good friend dies, but also reasserts his primary message: that animals are important, that "pets are not petty," that they deserve our respect and our kind care. As Kowalski writes, "Animals enrich our lives in countless ways, with their playfulness, their tranquility [sic], their constancy, and their love..." This book will help readers mourn and remember them well. -- From Independent Publisher
From the Author
As a parish minister, I often counsel those seeking comfort in time of loss. And as an animal lover myself (having accompanied two fine dogs to the end of the trail and helped my children struggle with the loss of an assortment of parakeets, rodents, and goldfish) I know the emotional roller-coaster firsthand.
There are no timetables for healing. There are no easy repairs for an aching heart. While I can't offer any way around the pain, I can share what's helped me and assisted others in finding peace, for you are not alone on this journey. Through the centuries, people of varied faiths (as well as poets, physicians, veterinarians and philosophers) have accumulated insights that help us face death with hope and wisdom, with gratitude for the years we share, with trust in the mystery that is at once beyond our ken and present in every living creature.
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After talking to my friends for weeks and finding it difficult to discuss how upset I was without tearing up (or bursting into tears completely, depending on how my friends reacted to the news), I found this book by chance and it really made a difference.
For some time, I was "upset that I was so upset," since I had been able to process deaths of family members and move on quickly, while this one struck me as a lingering sadness. Mr. Kowalski's book made me realize that there are reasons for this reaction, and, more importantly, that they are a natural part of human emotion (SPOILER ALERT: We spend every waking moment with our pets, letting them sleep near us, watching us while we get dressed in the morning, and taking them to the mailbox with us, so, yes, it's okay to miss that presence.)
I've read some reviews that fault this book for making them more upset, and I can understand why they feel that way. This is not a book that will make the hurt go away, but it is a book that will make you feel better about being upset, and will give you some comfort in knowing that there's nothing wrong with you or the grief you are feeling. We all process our grief on different timetables, but it's important to remember that it's not a race and it's okay to take all the time you need.
I read this about six weeks after Tallulah left, and while it turned the waterworks on, it did so in a way that was cathartic and helpful. There's even a chapter on when to open your home up to a new pet (and that depends completely on you) that made me realize it wasn't a betrayal, but a tribute to your beloved to do so. In July, we rescued a Lab/Hound mix named Conrad, and while he won't replace our girl, I realize there's enough room in our hearts to love this little guy just as much.
Our pets are a joyous part of our lives. They're steadier in their emotions than we are and accept the fact that they can build their worlds around us and ask for surprisingly little in return. This book acknowledges that whether your pet has four legs, fins, a shell, or scales, when they leave us, they leave a tremendous void that hits us hard. And it let me know that it was okay to ache, because that means they did the job they were sent to do.