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There’s a Book About That: When a Pet Dies

August 27, 2013

Now and then we turn to a serious but necessary topic.  I’ll never forget  the day I was in a bookstore and a mom came in with a very specific request. The family cat had died and she was looking for a book to help explain it to a small child. Of course I jumped in and recommended The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst–I described the story and by the time I was done we were both a little teary. This incident helped me to further understand two things: it’s ok to be publicly sad when talking about the loss of a pet, and books help all of us to get through a difficult time. It’s important to let children, and adults too, know that it’s ok to love our pets and it’s ok to be sad when they pass on and most importantly it’s good to remember.

Tenth Good Thing About Barney

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Erik Blegvad

Barney the cat has died, and the young narrator is sad, the whole family is sad. They have a funeral and everyone shares the good things they will remember about Barney. There is discussion about where Barney is now – up in Heaven or under the ground, one of the many questions kids will have. They only come up with nine good things and are a little stumped for a tenth……..eventually our young narrator fugures out number ten: “Barney is in the ground and he’s helping grow flowers. You know, I said, that’s a pretty nice job for a cat.”

Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye

The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jim Lamarche

In a story told with a delicate and graceful touch we see Tiger Rose, now grown old, saying her goodbyes to her favorite places and fellow creatures. She’s tired and knows it’s time to move on, and with a leap into the sky she does. Jane Yolen’s poetic touch in tandem with Jim Lamarche’s paintings makes this a reassuring way to talk with kids about the loss of a beloved pet.

I'll Always Love You

I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm

Hans Wilhelm tells the story of a little boy and his dog Elfie. They grew up together”, constant companions “but Elfie grew much faster than I did. Over time our boy notices that Elfie can’t do as much as she used to and the vet tells him that “Elfie is just growing old”. He knows that he loves her, and makes sure to tell her every night “I’ll always love you”, and later, remembering that makes him a little less sad.

Cat Heaven          Dog Heaven

Cat Heaven/Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant

Back to the question about what happens after our pets move on from our world, do they go to Cat or Dog Heaven? In these books, one for cat owners and one for dog owners, Cynthia Rylant shows readers what Heaven is like for their pets. It’s a wonderful joyful place where they can play and sleep and just be cats and dogs all day and night. A lovely and reassuring way to help children process the loss of their pet.

Desser the Best Ever Cat

Desser the Best Ever Cat by Maggie Smith

The story of a cat named Desser, told by the little girl who loved him best. Desser and his little girl grow up together, he is her constant companion, he’s the one waiting for her when she gets home from her first day of school. But she sees that Desser is getting older and knows it will soon be time to say goodbye. Remembering all of the happy times with “the best ever cat” helps to keep him alive in her memory forever.

Up In Heaven - Dog

Up in Heaven by Emma Chichester Clark

This one may be the book that made me cry most every time I presented it. The story of a boy whose dog passes on, deals with not only the loss, but the idea of when he might be ready to bring a new dog into the family. It takes time, but eventually he knows that his old dog is in a better place and that it doesn’t diminish his love for, or memories of that pet if he loves a new dog, too. (The US edition of this book is out of print, but you can find a copy at your local library.)

Whenever I’ve sold a book about the loss of a pet to any of my bookstore buyers there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t hear a personal and sometimes heartbreaking story about their own pet–letting me know that love for our pets is universal,  and I should never to leave the house without extra tissues .

Thanks for joining us today on RAoR, I hope these books are helpful to you whenever you need them. Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

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