Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter

"When we open our hearts to animals, death is the inevitable price," writes E.B. Bartels, a former bookseller at Newtonville Books, Mass. Good Grief, her impeccably researched first book, offers deeply personal stories about the many ways companion animals enrich lives and how animal lovers must ultimately cope with the pain of their loss.

Having a pet is a choice, and mourning pets is nothing new. Bartels, a lifelong and devout animal lover, has grappled with this predicament since she was a child. Her father loved animals, but her mother claimed she was "violently allergic" to "anything with fur, feathers, or hair." That left young animal-loving Bartels to cultivate freshwater fish in tabletop aquariums. When "trouble in (fish) paradise" began and occupants were found floating in the tank and/or were swallowed up by larger fish, Bartels became intrigued by the nature of loss and grief. Starting in kindergarten, she developed something of a "pet aftercare industry," where she assisted with animal funerals and burials with peers at school.

This in-depth, splendidly informative narrative is replete with down-to-earth stories from Bartels herself and those of ordinary pet owners, pet care professionals, celebrities and historians. The pivotal roles pet birds, reptiles, rodents, horses, dogs and cats have played in personal lives--and how they are ultimately grieved and remembered--are interspersed with fascinating historical facts. Readers, like Bartels, who long to comprehend the pet-human bond--why people care so much for their pets, in life and in death, and what makes the bond so worthwhile and why--will be well educated and find much to reflect upon in Good Grief. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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