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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 49/100: Going Home - Finding Peace when Pets Die by Jon Katz

Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die - Jon Katz

“When you lose a dog or cat, you lose love, plain and simple. Love is hard to come by in our world, and love you get every day, with no strings attached, is precious.”

I started this book the day that my cat Phoebe died, and I finished it before the weekend was over. I teared up often. It was therapeutic, and reassuring, and healing.

When I knew I would have to put my cat down, the first thing I did was search the library catalog for resources on grieving a pet. This one rose to the top because a) it wasn't geared at explaining the death of pets to children; and b) it wasn't focused on dogs. I also read The New Work of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love, and Family by Jon Katz and found him to be an insightful, thoughtful, competent writer. I was glad to have a writer with whom I had previous experience to guide me through this difficult time.

"Going Home" is not a self-help book, but rather a philosophical reflection on what our pets' lives and deaths mean to us. Katz sets some very healthy boundaries -- that we shouldn't love our animals at the expense of connecting with people, and that keeping our pets alive because of our own fear of letting them go is not "love":

“We have to let go. Hanging on is not love. Dogs and cats did not come into our lives to suffer, or to stay beyond their time because of our wants and needs.”


Katz also exposes his own vulnerabilities -- the tough choices he has made in dealing with his own animals, which at times can be a little uncomfortable. I found myself judging him from time-to-time for his choices, then felt bad about it. He did, after all, write this very comforting book!

My biggest annoyance with the book, though, was that it was so clear that Jon Katz REALLY wanted to write about the death of dogs. It felt like his editor had told him it would sell better if he broadened his approach to "pets," so he peppers his prose with the phrase "dogs and cats" but only includes one story about a woman grieving a cat, in which the cat disappeared but did not necessarily die. I know that a lot of the feelings are the same regardless of what kind of companion animal you had to bid farewell, but I didn't like having to make the translation from "dog to cat" in my mind. That's what led me to Soul Comfort for Cat Lovers: Coping Wisdom for Heart and Soul After the Loss of a Beloved Feline, which I'm saving for a quiet time when I can really take it all in and cry as needed.