Review

Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die

by Jon Katz

Bestselling author Jon Katz has written a thoughtful and informative book about how to deal with one's grief when a favorite pet is lost. In past works, readers have fallen in love with the animals Katz has nurtured and loved. We have lived with him in the joys and frustrations that make up the baggage of pet ownership. Now, in GOING HOME, he leads us down another path --- that of loss and consolation.

"This is much more than a how-to book about grief: it is a journey on life's rocky path. Katz writes with deep emotion, pathos, genuine love and uplifting joy."
Orson is a border collie who lives a wild and spirited life, uncontrollable in the world of human contact but nevertheless a cherished family member. Katz pours his soul into caring for him, moving mountains to provide the right care and/or cure for his dog's crazy nature. But Orson does not respond to either conventional or unconventional treatments, from medication to dog psychiatry. When he crosses society's acceptable boundary by biting several people, Katz comes to a painful conclusion: Orson must be euthanized.
 
Katz's introduction tells the story of Orson's final visit to the veterinarian, which happened to be on Katz's birthday. When he brings Orson home for burial, his concern is for Rose, his faithful working border collie and her reaction to her friend’s absence. He views Orson's death as a watershed moment in his own life. At first, he glosses over it, refusing to deal with his own grief. Consumed with guilt, he gradually develops the sense of a bigger picture. This book is the written result of his ability to share insights he has learned from his experiences with painful loss.
 
Katz prefaces each chapter with artful photographs of the animals he has known, loved and lost. Reminders abound throughout of the playful and caring nature of each. Rose, Orson, Izzie Lenore, Elvis, Merricat and Bartleby were real live creatures who were loved and nurtured on Katz's Bedlam Farm, but who died while residing there. He remembers each with genuine delight, choosing to elaborate on their graces rather than their flaws. This not-so-lengthy book is chock full of steps one can take in coping with an animal's passing.
 
"Through their deaths, I am opened to the love and light of the world, final gift of feeling, a rebirth of understanding and meaning. Death is as much a part of life as birth." Katz views pain as cleansing us for the gift of unconditional love that does not die. He offers numerous questions an owner can ask that may alleviate the immediate anguish felt when a pet dies. You may ask, "Did I give my pet the best life I could? Did I care for him when he was sick? Did I appreciate and return his affection? Did I love him? Do I miss him? Did he have a good life?"
 
GOING HOME paints beautiful word pictures for its audience. “Stanley,” a short chapter, depicts a beloved dog lifted to his version of heaven, romping in a field of rubber balls. Acceptance of a dog's innate abilities, unlike humans, opens us up to that animal's possibilities in his afterlife. The author returns in chapter after chapter to his first real loss --- that of Orson. We are gifted with his poetic tribute to his beloved dog in the first chapter, titled “Animal Dreams, Orson.” Before the final chapter, his anguish becomes a part of us. But we become imbedded in the final acceptance that each lost pet has been a gift, a pathway to the future. This is much more than a how-to book about grief: it is a journey on life's rocky path. Katz writes with deep emotion, pathos, genuine love and uplifting joy.
 

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on November 17, 2011

Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die
by Jon Katz

  • Publication Date: August 21, 2012
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Pets
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0345502701
  • ISBN-13: 9780345502704