(revised edition) By Gary Kowalski. New World Library. $14.
They’re never with us long enough, and for some, the death of a pet may represent the greatest loss they ever encounter.
Kowalski, a Unitarian Universalist minister and author of seven books on nature, spirituality, science and the environment, treads on tender turf here in dissecting the subject from both the individual and religious perspective.
Citing sermons he has delivered, quotes from authors, poets and medical professionals, Kowalski delivers a nicely balanced presentation that puts an emphasis on the owner’s health in moving forward from his/her pet’s death, whether it be suddenly accidental or planned euthanasia designed to give the animal’s tired body peace and relief.
“The better part of wisdom,” says Kowalski, “lies in accepting nature’s limits. Time restrictions apply to all of us, two-legged and four-legged.”
No two people react the same to a pet’s death. For some, the grief is long and pronounced. For others, who feel they have offered their aging, ill pet a tender, peaceful option via euthanasia, the mourning is there but the ability to move forward to no prescribed schedule is a bit easier.
And as Anatole France beautifully characterizes, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Kowalski notes that children helped him become more grown-up but as a pet owner, caring for an animal “is one of the things that has let me become more human.”
A late chapter entitled “A Selection of Readings and Poems” provides a solid complement to the author’s framing of the big picture earlier.
“Goodbye Friend” is designed to be a celebration of life, a rich nourishment of lifetime memories and a spirited, yet simplified, pathway for taking care of yourself through the emotional rollercoaster of passion and pain following a pet’s death. It succeeds on all counts.