By Kathy A. Megyeri
“The Book of Pet Love And Loss: Words of Comfort and Wisdom from Remarkable People,” by Sara Bader (2023)
When editor and author Sara Bader lost her 13-year-old cat Snowflake, she was bereft and searched for a book “that could guide her through that painful time of pet loss—memories, advice, encouragement from others who had lived through such an experience,” but she couldn’t find such a book. So she created her own comfort by researching firsthand accounts of pet loss published over the last two centuries—journals, letters, memoirs, essays, articles, podcasts, interviews, oral histories and stories on social media. The stories in this book are tales of heartache over the loss of cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, horses, mice, frogs, and even a mongoose, but the entries aren’t maudlin. They are personal and heartfelt. Emily Dickenson asks for help. Journalist John Dickerson admits that “every dog is a rescue dog.” Playwright Eugene O’Neill says, “Blemis’ death was a blow. I knew I would miss him badly when he went, but I had no idea how badly.”
Why? Because the bond is unlike any other relationship in our lives. “An animal’s love is forgiving, deep, and uncomplicated,” Bader writes. “We establish co-dependence and rituals and we’re devastated when they depart.” Bader says it’s a miracle that we find a way to continue on after pet loss.
Her collection is a grief guide divided into chapters: the celebration of the bond, the realization that the end is near, the adjustment to life after, the persistence of mourning and the final gift of friendship. The reader won’t forget Julia Child and her cat Minette, Billie Holiday and her boxer Mister, Fred Rogers and his dog Mitzi, Beatrix Potter and her mouse Xarifa, and many more like Charles Schultz, Oprah Winfrey, and Liberace’s many dogs.
The stories will connect with those who’ve experienced pet love and loss. As Michele Obama writes in her memoir, “Our dog was living proof that the White House was a home.” Both she and author Bader know that our animals make our houses home and when we lose them, we mourn. Author and professor Jennifer Finny Boylan writes, “When you lose a pet, you not only lose the animal that has been your friend, but you also lose a connection to the person you have been.”