Going Home by Jon Katz
Having recently purchased an “older” dog and having dogs growing up, I was intrigued when I picked up Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz. Most of us have gone through losing our pets, whether by natural death or by putting them down, and can all attest to it being excruciatingly difficult. Katz opens the door to his personal experience, with stories from fellow pet owners, and gives guidance and support.
Katz starts his introduction with the death of his dog, Orson. He relives the experience, which happened on his birthday, and describes the reaction of his other dog, Rose. As anyone who has gone through something difficult and owned an animal can attest, it’s amazing how intuitive they are. Barely two pages into it, tears were springing to my eyes! Resigning myself to an emotional rollercoaster, I continued on.
Throughout the book, there are many stories from pet owners who have loved and lost their beloved animals. One of my favorite is about an Iraq War veteran, Harry, and his dog, Duke. Duke’s heart was failing and he didn’t have much time. Harry decided to give his buddy “the perfect day”. As I read this touching story, I couldn’t help but think of my dog and smile (and, of course, cry).
Katz gives readers helpful suggestions in the grieving processes. For instance, acknowledging the grief, pain and loss; asking for help; knowing that mourning isn’t comfortable but a natural part of the grieving process and helps move you forward; focusing on the best parts of the life you shared (love, loyalty, comfort and laughter); understanding the loss without succumbing to it, and much more. Be sure to keep in mind that these are the author’s suggestions and may not be appropriate for everyone.
For me, the most enjoyable parts of the book were the “role-playing” parts where Katz wrote what he thought the animals he lost (pets in general, as well) would’ve said to him (us). Since we know animals can’t speak their minds, it’s nice to hear what he thinks they would say to us. It’s a comfort and in my opinion, helps ease the burden and the heartache.
I know my Great Dane, Frieda, who is 3, isn’t going to be around forever. Going Home reminded me to enjoy her while she’s here, give her a good life, and to think of future steps that will need to be taken when the time comes to say goodbye. It also gave me some good insight on how to help my children (and myself) prepare and how to aid in getting them through, when the difficult day arrives.
To conclude, I want to take a quote from the book. “Pain defines love, gives it meaning. Without pain, love is nothing. Grieving hurts, but it cleanses and purifies us and brushes against our souls. It whispers to us that we received the great gift of unconditional love, and that does not ever die.”
For pet lovers alike, I highly recommend putting this book on your shelves. It may help them get through an agonizing decision or a rough patch in the grieving process. Going Home pulls at heart strings and makes you grateful to have these wonderful creatures by your side.