This blog post is going to be a little more, well, morose than the usual stuff on here. My dog died today. She got hit by a car on Monday, and for awhile it looked like she would end up making a full recovery, but then the vets realized she would never be able to walk again and wouldn’t be able to control her bladder so we put her to sleep.
Anyway, obviously I’m sad, but this is a blog that’s about both escaping and embracing real life’s sadness through creative pursuits, and so in the spirit of that, I’m going to review one of my all-time favorite books, Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant.
While Dog Heaven is clearly supposed to be a children’s book, I can assure you from experience that people of all ages can enjoy it. When I was 10 my dog Juliet died, and so my mom bought this book for me to cheer me up. It helped then, it helped four years later when my dog Perdy died, and, after reading it just today because of Ariel, I’d have to admit that it still helps. It’s a picture book, and the writing is done in a very simple style, with short sentences and no big words. Yet at the same time, this poetic simplicity allows the book to make statements that are quite deep, such as, “Every dog becomes a good dog in Dog Heaven,” “Heaven is full of memories,” and “When he is satisfied that all is well, the dog will return to Heaven with the angel. It is where dogs belong, near God who made them.” Statements like this, told in such a basic way, are incredibly comforting to those who have just gone through a loss, and give them hope.
The book obviously mentions heaven and god, but it’s definitely not trying to convert kids into being religious or anything. That’s not the point of it. It just gives a sense that whatever other world a dog has passed into, that world is a nice, warm one where there are people to love it. I’ve never been a super religious person, but this book has always struck a chord with me because it suggests that there’s a purpose to such sadness.
The art is very different than what’s in most picture books, but it fits perfectly with the text. It’s all done in acrylic, with many bright colors, thick lines, and slightly abstract backgrounds. The result is an other-worldly feel, not setting the book or heaven in any specific time or place. It’s also all soft and playful, much like a dog.
If you ever suffer the loss of a dog or know someone who does, I strongly suggest buying this book. It can really help someone go from being a sad wreck into being calm and ready to start accepting what has happend to their beloved pet. I also think this is the best way of explaining the whole situation to young kids.
Have a wonderful weekend, escapists!
Buy it on Amazon: v=http://www.amazon.com/Dog-Heaven-Cynthia-Rylant/dp/0590417010