Book review: Author’s advice on death of pet

Jon Katz's “Going Home” offers comfort to grieving pet owners, whether their pet died yesterday or l

“Going Home” offers comfort to grieving pet owners, whether their pet died yesterday or long ago.

Jon Katz, an author, photographer, broadcaster and farmer, lives at Bedlam Farm in Washington County. This is his 20th book, his 10th about animals.

In the introduction, he writes that he wants to “help animal lovers grieve when their pain is great” by sharing what he and friends have learned after the deaths of their dogs or farm animals. While those experiences provide the examples in “Going Home,” the book will help people experiencing the death of other animals.

‘Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die’

Author: Jon Katz

Published by: Villard, 192 pages

How much: $22

Millions of Americans own pets, most of which live shorter lives than people. So it is not a question of whether a person will grieve the loss of a pet but how they will grieve.

The book goes from the particulars of Katz’s and other pet owners’ experiences to general advice and strategies that people can use to “process” their grief.

The book considers animal deaths that happen abruptly and those that happen as an elderly pet declines or has untreatable medical conditions.

Tough times

The latter situations are especially difficult. When a dog has cancer, for example, a person wants to make sure it is not suffering and that they do what is right for the animal. Katz offers a set of factors to consider, helping a person make sure they have considered all options before making decisions on how much treatment to give the pet or whether to euthanize it.

Rather than just set out a process, Katz uses his own experiences to show how it works. “Going Home” articulates the idea of a good life for pets, where you work to make your pet emotionally and physically comfortable throughout its life. Katz explains the importance of communicating with an animal, not through cute talk or projecting your feelings on the animal, but in understanding how people and animals interact.

Katz asserts that if you treat an animal well throughout its life and understand it as well as a person can, you have done the right thing as a pet owner, that you will be the best advocate for the pet and your kindness and care will help you confront grief after death.

The book provides good advice about explaining the death of pets to children and about helping a grieving pet owner or expressing your own grief.

Based on experience with our dog Rose dying last year, some of Katz’s advice is helpful, particularly sharing care decision (and grieving) with my wife and daughter and keeping Rose in my heart by sharing stories with family and friends.

What works for some

In sections of the book, he tries to imagine what his dogs would say to him. He also consulted an animal communicator, to find the spirit of one of these dogs. These do not seem helpful responses to grief. However, with pet owners experiencing many variations of grief, some things will work for some and not for others.

I respect Katz for offering to help others facing grief after their pet dies. And I enjoyed the empathetic, flowing and witty way he writes about how he and others live with animals at all stages of life.

Jon Katz will appear for a book signing at the Open Door Bookstore on Jay Street in Schenectady for a signing from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m, on Thursday. He will give a talk from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. that night at the Clifton Park Public Library.

Categories: Life and Arts

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