The acclaimed author of numerous books about the emotional lives of animals now turns to the experience of losing a pet.
“I believe it is a deep and ancient longing, to bond with a member of a different species,” writes Masson near the beginning of this heart-rending foray into the challenge of “facing the death of…the animal you have come to love like any other member of the family.” Nothing brings home the depth of that relationship like death, upon which we “are confronted with mortality in general, writ large in these animals who have become family, but in some sense even more than family—maybe part of ourselves.” The author investigates the psychology of this loss through testimonies from their human companions as well as conversations with friends and veterinarians. Masson’s tone is sympathetic, for he is a firm believer in the sentience of animals and the dignity with which they should be treated in life and death. He argues that animals have a sense of impending death and that death could be as relevant to them as it is to us. Dogs, in particular, bring an unalloyed state of pure happiness when they are in our presence, an elemental love free of all the baggage that accompanies human relationships. In many ways, that is why their loss is so heartbreaking. Occasionally, Masson’s associations go too far—“losing [a pet] is very much like losing a child”—but readers can skip parts that seem over the edge. The author has many wise things to impart about a child’s grief—e.g., “it is important to recognize the genuineness of the emotions of the child, to honor them by taking them seriously.”
A touching, sensitive journey that will, like Masson’s previous books, find a wide audience.