Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Lessons on Living and Dying from My Canine Brothers

by Doug Koktavy

Pub Date: June 21st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0982126004
Publisher: B Brothers

Both a touching chronicle of canine deaths foretold and a paean to the joy of owning pets.

Currently, dogs enjoy not just broad popularity in our culture, but they also occupy a blurred line between human and animal. If you don’t have pets—or if you have pets but don’t love them like family—the relationship between Koktavy and his canine companions will be hard to fathom because Legacy is a memoir about grieving the loss of two brothers who just happen to be dogs. In 1995, the author’s wife coerced him into adopting two black Labrador retrievers, Beezer and Boomer. A few years later, the wife was gone, but the dogs remained. Hesitant at first, Koktavy eventually fell hard for his puppies: he invented silly nicknames for them, he threw them birthday parties with funny hats and he called them his “brothers.” Then he had to watch them both die. As Beezer neared his ninth birthday, he developed a fatal kidney disease. Shortly after Beezer’s passing, Boomer contracted a bone cancer that would take his life. In the early stages of Beezer’s struggle, Koktavy began writing; many authors had written about lost pets, he thought, but few had chronicled the actual process of losing animals who were also true companions. His attempt to do so is genuinely moving. Koktavy writes of his love for his dogs—and of the grief that followed their deaths—with unpretentious candor. He never hides the remarkable intimacy he shared with Boomer and Beezer, and if his closeness with the dogs is slightly off-putting at the beginning of his tale, it is downright enviable by the end. Gorgeous etchings by Chris Smith showing the two pups at play and at rest add visual depth to the narrative.

Not simply a story about the pain of losing pets, the book keenly relates the pleasures of owning them.