BOOKS: Goodbye, Friend
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2012:
by Gary Kowalski
New World Library (14 Pameron Way, Novato, CA 94949), 2012.
176 pages, paperback. $14.00.
Goodbye, Friend enters a crowded market of books written to guide human survivors through grief after the loss of a beloved pet. Unitarian Universalist minister Gary Kowalski came to write about pet loss after receiving a note from a congregant asking him to announce another congregant’s dog’s death. Kowalksi hesitated, wondering how the congregation would accept the news. But the entire congregation appreciated the woman’s loss and provided comfort to her. Kowalksi recognizes that some bereaved pet keepers may cry over a dog or cat’s death and demonstrates acceptance of their hurt, angry, or confused feelings. He discusses Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of death and dying as related to pet loss. He associates pet loss with various religious ceremonies. Kowalski explains that the loss of a pet may be a child’s first experience with death, and should be handled with sensitivity and concern. He suggests coping procedures, including honoring the deceased pet with a memorial, or writing about the pet.
Kowalksi does not cover pet loss and grief at animal shelters, but almost no one does. Euthanasia, always a sensitive subject, has become much more so amid rising public enthusiasm for no-kill sheltering; but even shelters that save every healthy animal nonetheless have frequent need to euthanize animals who are suffering and beyond effective treatment, or are too dangerous to allow around other animals and humans.
Shelter workers experience grief, anguish, frustration, rage and depression from destroying tail-wagging dogs and purring cats. Pet keepers may grieve with friends, family and even support groups, but shelter workers often receive little emotional help, even from each other, since the culture of shelter work emphasizes maintaining an aura of serene and self-assured competence, to avoid disturbing animals and shaking public trust. –Debra J. White