“Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die”

By Jon Katz. Villard. $22. (This title will be released Sept. 27.)

As pet owners, we have all endured and dreaded that day when it is time to say goodbye to a beloved pet. Nothing really prepares one for the angst and heartbreak, even if you’ve been through the process previously.

Numerous books have been published on the subject, but “Going Home” ranks right up there with the best. It connects powerfully to the reader and is a must-read while your pet is vibrant and healthy, not in its final days. Katz personalizes his losses, from the celebration of life to grieving, noting how the imprint of each animal has affected him differently.

Author of 20 books and owner of Bedlam Farm in upstate New York, this ambitious interpretation of the human-animal bond is one to which you can easily relate.

“The love of a dog,” he says in the Introduction, “can be a powerful thing, in part, I think, because animals are a blank canvas upon which we can – and do – paint almost anything. Dogs enter our lives and imprint themselves in ways that people, and our complex relationships with them, cannot.”  

In the process, Katz emphasizes that being our dogs’ representatives and guardians, “is how we honor that unspoken but powerful contract that has connected us to dogs for thousands of years. We owe it to them.” As our dog’s advocate, that means we must accept when it is time to let go. “Hanging on,” he says, “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 tackles the morality of euthanization, as well as the personal difficulty of making that right decision which will allow you move on. In the process he poses several scenarios to help you make that decision.

“Grief is normal, inevitable, and unavoidable if you love your pet,” says Katz. “Expect it. Accept it. Embrace it, and allow it to take its course. It will come if you let it.”

Where do you turn for help: Friends, relatives, your veterinarian, books and pet-loss web sites? There are many resources out there, but it’s not a case of one size fit all, since the emotional nourishment of every relationship is different, he argues.

Katz captures the essence of that relationship while noting, “I embrace the Quaker ordeal: human life is sacred. Animal life is precious. In understanding the difference between the two, I have found a way to grieve that is comfortable for me.”

“Going Home” is both an empowering celebration of life as well as a passionate pathway for cutting through emotional dark clouds to bright sunshine after a deep personal loss.  Soberly reflective but always open-minded, it is the perfect guidebook for both preparing for and coping with that eventual loss most painfully approach with trepidation.