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Grieving the Death of a Pet Paperback – January 1, 2003
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
"Rocky's loss taught me how deeply we grieve for our loved animals, the intensity of pain and the length of time it can last," writes Betty Carmack, a nurse and professional pet loss counselor. In Grieving the Death of a Pet, Carmack draws from her experience of counseling more than two thousand people who have lost a beloved pet, as well as the loss of her Rocky and other furry friends. She offers the book as a kind of pet-loss support group to counter "a world that reminds us repeatedly that grief for an animal doesn't count as much as grief for a person." It's poignant and sometimes heartrending, filled with personal stories of love and loss as well as Scripture and thoughts on faith.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"...a must read for everyone facing the intense pain that comes with losing a cherished animal companion." -- Ed Sayres, President, San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
"...offers the nurturing supportive hug that we all need when we experience the loss of a kindred spirit." -- Allen M. Schoen, DVM, author of Kindred Spirits
"...poignant and sometimes heartrending, filled with personal stories of love and loss." -- Publishers Weekly
"This book will touch your heart and help it to heal..." -- Bernie Siegel, MD, author of Love, Medicine & Miracles
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In the chapter about love, Carmack addresses the bond that develops between owner and pet. I grew up always being around dogs. Even those dogs that bonded most with my dad were still like friends to me. I talked with them and we hung out together. As an adult, the care I could provide increased, and in turn so did the depths to which I could bond with my dogs and, later, other pets. For that reason, Carmack’s first chapter had the potential to be obvious and unnecessary. Of course my pet is a friend. Of course my pet is a family member. But, I also remember the sting of those who trivialized my loss when they said, “It’s just a pet.” For that reason, I appreciated that Carmack validates the belief that pets are as integral to our lives as family. We might grieve for people and animals on different levels, but grief for pets is natural and normal.
Carmack’s subsequent chapters also proved just as helpful. When I first read Carmack’s book, I’d suffered only the loss of three dogs. Since then I have lost two more dogs, three guinea pigs, and one cat. What struck me most this past year, after losing my third and last guinea pig along with my first cat, is how different grief can be from one loss to the next. After Bumblebee (my guinea pig) died, I cried for hours. I then went nights without any sleep before I finally willed myself to move forward. After Lucy (my cat) died, I also cried for hours and even resorted to Benadryl to help me fall asleep for a few nights. Yet I was quick to pack up all her stuff, and within a few days the grief came in waves instead of a continual onslaught. Did I love Lucy less? No. Instead, there are so many factors that enter into one’s ability to handle the loss of a pet. How much guilt does one feel? How much time did one have to say goodbye? How many tough decisions was one forced to make? How much did the pet suffer?
Grief is a complex emotion, which means there is no one way to experience it. Grief may be accompanied by disbelief, anger, or guilt. Some people may feel their pet’s presence even after death, in hearing the jangle of their collar; others may feel the house is achingly quiet. Some people may immediately decide to acquire a new pet; others may wait years, or give up on pets altogether. Some people may spiral into depression as a result of the sudden life change from being a caretaker to being aimless; others may fill the void by finding ways to memorialize their pet. Reading Carmack’s subsequent chapters, I felt reassured that the many facets of grief I’ve felt over the years are normal. What connects every pet owner is not how they grieve, but the fact that grief is a beast that can take days or months to tame. Tame, not vanquish. There will always be a part of our hearts that hangs onto our pets in heaven.
I haven’t touched yet on the personal stories of pet owners that Carmack includes. Without these stories, Carmack’s words are just that: words. By integrating real-life stories into her powerful message of hope, that message gains an emotional poignancy.
Even now, two months after Lucy’s death, I still find myself grabbing for tissues as I read these stories. Imagine being a pet owner who loses their dog through ignorance of the dangers of heat. For those who are well-educated in pet care, this might seem like a no-brainer. Yet part of what twists me up inside about losing our cat is the nagging doubt that perhaps my ignorance played a part. Yes, I did request an appetite stimulant when she lost interest in food, but I also thought that her finickiness was just part of being an old cat. Not until this past fall did I start to think perhaps there were bigger issues. What if I had instead starting asking questions a year ago? Would that have changed Lucy’s fate? We live and learn, even when it comes to our pets. If nothing else, these stories prove this.
Not that all the stories are about mistakes. Some are glowing reports of owners who did everything they could, but in the end found themselves powerless to stop death. Now that time has passed since Lucy’s death, I appreciate the bond I feel when reading of others who have lost pets, whatever their circumstances. I am also inspired by all the ways one can pay tribute to a pet. Carmack’s book has deservedly been around for ten years, because it is the full package of how to handle the death of a pet.
I am about halfway through this book, and it is actually making me feel worse. The reason that it is making me feel worse is that included in this book are stories where the pet owners -- out of their sheer stupidity, ignorance, and irresponsibility -- actually caused the death of the pets that they should have been protecting.
One pet owner caused their German Shepherd to get heat stroke. Another couple put their friendly Rottweiler to sleep because he had bitten other dogs, and they were afraid he would bite a child. There are numerous other alternatives to euthanasia in circumstances such as those. Even the author caused the death of her first dog by actually pulling her dog overboard into a fast-moving river and then let go of him, causing him to drown. The author never should have jumped in the river herself let alone pull her dog in.
I just can't finish this book because I can't read any more stories where pet owners caused the death of their pets. I am very sensitive in that regard, and I think other animal lovers are the same way. I would never put any of my pets in harm's way like the author did. I know accidents do happen, but many of these people could have and should have been better informed and made better decisions concerning the safety of their pets. Many of these people set the stage for an accident by making a series of bad decisions. This just angers me at a time when I already feel sad.
Furthermore, this book has not told me anything that I did not know already. The author spends a great deal of time letting the reader know that it is okay to grieve over the loss of a pet. It wouldn't have even occurred to me that it wasn't all right to grieve the loss of a pet. You would have to be heartless not to do so.
If you are grieving the loss of a pet, seek comfort in your friends and family and find a different book to comfort you.